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Journal of Arid Land  2021, Vol. 13 Issue (1): 23-39    DOI: 10.1007/s40333-021-0054-9
Research article     
Investigation of crop evapotranspiration and irrigation water requirement in the lower Amu Darya River Basin, Central Asia
Durdiev KHAYDAR1,2,3,4, CHEN Xi1,2,3,5, HUANG Yue1,3,5,*(), Makhmudov ILKHOM4, LIU Tie1,3,5, Ochege FRIDAY1,3, Abdullaev FARKHOD3,4, Gafforov KHUSEN1,3,4, Omarakunova GULKAIYR1,3
1State Key Laboratory of Desert and Oasis Ecology, Xinjiang Institute of Ecology and Geography, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Urumqi 830011, China
2Research Center for Ecology and Environment of Central Asia, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Urumqi 830011, China
3University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100049, China
4Ministry of Water Resources of the Republic of Uzbekistan, Scientific Research Institute of Irrigation and Water Problems, Tashkent 100187, Uzbekistan
5Key Laboratory of GIS & RS Application Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, Xinjiang Institute of Ecology and Geography, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Urumqi 830011, China
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High water consumption and inefficient irrigation management in the agriculture sector of the middle and lower reaches of the Amu Darya River Basin (ADRB) have significantly influenced the gradual shrinking of the Aral Sea and its ecosystem. In this study, we investigated the crop water consumption in the growing seasons and the irrigation water requirement for different crop types in the lower ADRB during 2004-2017. We applied the FAO Penman-Monteith method to estimate reference evapotranspiration (ET0) based on daily climatic data collected from four meteorological stations. Crop evapotranspiration (ETc) of specific crop types was calculated by the crop coefficient. Then, we analyzed the net irrigation requirement (NIR) based on the effective precipitation with crop water requirements. The results indicated that the lowest monthly ET0 values in the lower ADRB were found in December (18.2 mm) and January (16.0 mm), and the highest monthly ET0 values were found in June and July, with similar values of 211.6 mm. The annual ETc reached to 887.2, 1002.1, and 492.0 mm for cotton, rice, and wheat, respectively. The average regional NIR ranged from 514.9 to 715.0 mm in the 10 Irrigation System Management Organizations (UISs) in the study area, while the total required irrigation volume for the whole region ranged from 4.2×109 to 11.6×109 m3 during 2004-2017. The percentages of NIR in SIW (surface irrigation water) ranged from 46.4% to 65.2% during the study period, with the exceptions of the drought years of 2008 and 2011, in which there was a significantly less runoff in the Amu Darya River. This study provides an overview for local water authorities to achieve optimal regional water allocation in the study area.

Key wordscrop evapotranspiration      crop water requirement      net irrigation requirement      CROPWAT model      Amu Darya River      Aral Sea     
Received: 10 September 2020      Published: 10 January 2021
Corresponding Authors:
About author: *HUANG Yue (E-mail:
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Durdiev KHAYDAR, CHEN Xi, HUANG Yue, Makhmudov ILKHOM, LIU Tie, Ochege FRIDAY, Abdullaev FARKHOD, Gafforov KHUSEN, Omarakunova GULKAIYR. Investigation of crop evapotranspiration and irrigation water requirement in the lower Amu Darya River Basin, Central Asia. Journal of Arid Land, 2021, 13(1): 23-39.

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Fig. 1 Location of the Amu Darya River Basin (ADRB; a) and distribution of the 10 UISs (Irrigation System Management Organizations) as well as meteorological stations (b) in the lower Amu Darya BUIS (Basin Management of Irrigation Systems)
Fig. 2 Annual average temperature (a) and annual precipitation (b) changes of the four meteorological stations in the study area from 2004 to 2017. The dotted line represents the trend.
Fig. 3 Planting pattern showing the proportions of cultivated crops by irrigated area in different UISs in the study area during 2004-2017
Crop Vegetation period Kc
Planting date Harvesting date Days (d) Initial stage Development stage Mid-season stage Late-season stage
Cotton 12 Apr 23 Oct 195 0.35 0.77 1.20 0.60
Wheat 16 Sep 13 May 240 0.70 0.92 1.15 0.25
Rice 20 May 16 Sep 150 0.50 0.73 1.03 0.76
Alfalfa 2 Mar 1 Mar 365 0.40 0.67 0.95 0.90
Maize 21 Apr 23 Aug 125 0.30 0.80 1.20 0.35
Vegetables 5 Feb 10 May 95 0.70 0.87 1.05 0.95
Melon 28 Apr 25 Aug 120 0.50 0.77 1.05 0.75
Fruits 21 Apr 20 Apr 365 0.30 0.57 0.85 0.45
Sorghum 1 May 8 Sep 130 0.30 0.65 1.00 0.55
Potato 10 Mar 17 Jul 130 0.50 0.82 1.15 0.86
Table 1 Crop seasonal information in the study area
Fig. 4 Monthly reference evapotranspiration (ET0) changes at the Chimbay (a), Kungrad (b), Nukus (c), and Urgench (d) stations during 2004-2017. The box and whisker plots show the five-number summary of a set of data: the minimum score, first (lower) quartile, median, third (upper) quartile, and the maximum score. The center represents the middle 50%, or 50th percentile of the data set, and is derived using the lower and upper quartile values. The median value is displayed inside the "box." The maximum and minimum values are displayed with vertical lines ("whiskers") connecting the points to the center box.
Fig. 5 Crop water requirement (CWR) for main crop types during 2004-2017. The box and whisker plots show the five-number summary of a set of data: the minimum score, first (lower) quartile, median, third (upper) quartile, and the maximum score. The center represents the middle 50%, or 50th percentile of the data set, and is derived using the lower and upper quartile values. The median value is displayed inside the "box." The maximum and minimum values are displayed with vertical lines ("whiskers") connecting the points to the center box. Different colors represent different crop types.
Year/Period ETc (mm) Reference
Cotton Wheat Rice Sorghum Alfalfa Vegetables Potato
2018 866.5 438.3 950.0 - - - - Liu et al. (2020)
2003 762.2 509.2 758.0 598.8 881.8 866.9 760.4 Schieder (2011)
2006-2007 799.0 383.0 1050.0 704.0 700.0 619.0 625.0 Bobojonov (2008)
2004-2017 887.2 492.0 1002.1 665.0 991.4 619.1 588.5 This study
Table 2 Comparison of the average crop evapotranspiration (ETc) values for main crops in the study area
Fig. 6 Variations of the UIS-based regional crop water requirements (CWRreg) in the lower ADRB during 2004-2017. 1, Suenli; 2, Kattagar-Bozatau; 3, Kizketken-Kegeyli; 4, Kuanishjarma; 5, Mangit-Nazarkhan; 6, Koramazi-Kilichniyozboy; 7, Shovot-Kulovot; 8, Pakhtaarna-Nayman; 9, Polvon-Gazavot; 10, Toshsoka.
Fig. 7 Crop water requirement (CWR; a), effective precipitation (Peff; b), and net irrigation requirement (NIR; c) for different crop types at the BUIS scale during 2004-2017
Fig. 8 Variations of regional net irrigation requirement (NIRreg) and regional irrigation water demand (IWDreg) on average in the 10 UISs during 2004-2017
Fig. 9 Comparison of the surface irrigation water and inflow from the ARD. SIW, surface irrigation water.
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