Does plastic mulching reduce water footprint in field crops in China? A meta-analysis

Linlin Wang, Linlin Li, Junhong Xie, Zhuzhu Luo, Anwar Sumera, Effah Zechariah, Setor Kwami Setor Kwami Fudjoe, Jairo Palta, Yinglong Chen

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8 Citations (Scopus)


Excessive use of water resources is threatening agriculture, other business and populations in China, India and USA, and crop production is expected to play a critical role in the sustainable use of water. In China, plastic mulching is widely employed in crop production, but its impact on agricultural water footprint has not been properly described. A meta-analysis was performed to examine how plastic mulching influences volumetric water availability (VWA), global stress-weighted water footprint per unit of output energy (WFo), and per unit of net economic return in crop production (WFe). Data extracted from 394 published studies in maize (Zea mays L.), wheat (Triticum aestivum L.), and potato (Solanum tuberosum L.) were used in the meta-analysis on crop production at the regional scale and across a range of N fertilization gradients in China. Plastic mulching reduced VWA by 15.3%, 14.1%, and 16.3% in maize, wheat, and potato, respectively, when compared to non-mulching practice, with corresponding reductions of WFo by 33.3%, 28.1%, and 32.1% and of WFe by 14.8%, 31.1%, and 31.0% in maize, wheat, and potato, respectively. Water footprint for crop production increased first and then decreased over the past four decades in China, and was greater in northwest and north central regions of China than in other regions. Under moderate and high N fertilization (>100 kg N ha -1) in dry regions, plastic mulching increased the impact on VWA, thereby reducing WFo and WFe. Water footprint for the production in potato and maize was lower than that in wheat. The meta-analysis demonstrated that plastic mulching practices reduced water footprint while lowering VWA. Therefore, plastic mulching has potential for saving water resource when appropriate growing region and N fertilizer applications are considered.
Original languageEnglish
Article number107293
Number of pages12
JournalAgricultural Water Management
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2022


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