Water use patterns of forage cultivars in the North China Plain

Document Type : Research Paper


1 Yucheng Integrated Experimental Station, Key Laboratory of Ecosystem Network Observation and Modelling, Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research, Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), 100101 Beijing, China.

2 Plant Functional Biology and Climate Change Cluster, University of Technology, Sydney, PO Box 123 Broadway, NSW 2007, Australia.


Water shortage is the primary limiting factor for crop production and long-term agricultural sustainability of the North China Plain. Forage cultivation emerged recently in this region. A fiver-year field experiment studies were conducted at Yucheng Integrated Experiment Station to quantify the water requirement and water use efficiency of seven forage varieties under climate variability, that is five annuals, i.e., ryegrass (Secale cereale L.), triticale (×Triticosecale Wittmack), sorghum hybrid sudangrass (Sorghum biolor × Sorghum Sudanense c.v.), ensilage corn (Zea mays L.), prince`s feather (Amaranthus paniculatus L.) and two perennials alfalfa (Medicago sativa L.) and cup plant (Silphium perfoliatum L.). Average ET for five annual varieties ranged from 333 to 371 mm, significantly lower than that of the perennial varieties. ET of alfalfa is 789 mm, which is higher than that of cup plant. Ryegrass and triticale need 1.5 to 2.0 mm water per day, while others 2.9-4.4 mm. Ensilage corn and Sorghum hybrid sudangrass performed better as their irrigation demand is smaller in the dry seasons than others. Ryegrass needs 281 mm irrigation requirement, which is higher than triticale in dry years. Prince’s feather is sensitive to climate change and it can be selected when rainfall is greater than 592.9 mm in the growing season. Mean WUE for prince’s feather is 20 Kg ha-1 mm-1, for ensilage corn is 41 Kg ha-1 mm-1 and others is close to 26 Kg ha-1 mm-1. Our experiments indicate that excessive rain will reduce the production of alfalfae. The results of this experiment have implications for researchers and policy makers with water management strategy of forage cultivars and it also very useful in addressing climate change impact and adaptation issues.