The effects of cropping intensity and cropland expansion of Brazilian soybean production on green water flows

Flach, R., Fader, M., Folberth, C. ORCID:, Skalský, R. ORCID:, & Jantke, K. (2020). The effects of cropping intensity and cropland expansion of Brazilian soybean production on green water flows. Environmental Research Communications 2 (7) e071001. 10.1088/2515-7620/ab9d04.

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As land use change alters how green water is appropriated, cropland expansion is instrumental in re-allocating green water towards agriculture. Alongside cropland expansion, agricultural intensification practices modify crop water use and land and water productivity. Particularly, one form of agricultural intensification known as multi-cropping (the cultivation of a piece of land sequentially more than once a year) can result in greater agricultural output per unit of land, as well as more productive use of the available water throughout the annual rainfall cycle. We assess the influence of these two processes, cropland expansion and agricultural intensification, in agricultural green water use in Brazilian agriculture. We applied the biophysical crop model Environmental Policy Integrated Climate (EPIC) to estimate green water use for single and double cropping of soybean (Glycine max) and maize (Zea mays) in Brazil. The first part of our study analyses changes in soybean green water use and virtual water content nationwide between 1990 and 2013, and in a second part we look into the effect of double-cropping on water use for soybean and maize in the Brazilian states of Paraná and Mato Grosso between 2003 and 2013. The results show that cropland expansion plays a more prominent effect in green water use for production of soybean than intensification, and harvested area increase was responsible for the appropriation of an additional 95 km3 of green water in 2013 when compared to 1990, an increase of 155%. We estimate that an additional green water use of around 26 km3 related to second season maize was appropriated through increase of cropping frequency, and without expansion of cropland, in 2013 in the selected states. We discuss the importance of considering multi cropping practices when assessing green water sustainability, and the importance of differentiating green water appropriation through expansion and through cropping frequency changes.

Item Type: Article
Research Programs: Ecosystems Services and Management (ESM)
Depositing User: Luke Kirwan
Date Deposited: 24 Aug 2020 11:50
Last Modified: 26 Jan 2022 11:19

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