Tree Wind Breaks in Central Asia and Their Effects on Agricultural Water Consumption
Across Central Asia, agriculture largely depends on irrigation due to arid and semi-arid climatic conditions. Water is abstracted from rivers, which are largely fed by glacier melt. In the course of climate change, glaciers melt down so that a reduced glacier volume and reduced water runoffs are expected to be available for irrigation. Tree wind breaks are one option to reduce water consumption in irrigated agriculture and build resilience against climate change. This paper therefore assesses
... herefore assesses the water consumption of major crops in Kyrgyzstan and adjacent areas, i.e., cotton (Gossypium hirsutum L.), wheat (Triticum aestivum L.), corn (Zea mays L.), rice (Oryza sativa L.), potato (Solanum tuberosum L.), and barley (Hordeum vulgare L.) in combination with tree wind breaks. Crop water consumption was assessed through the Penman Monteith approach. Tree wind break types investigated were single rows from poplars (Populus spec.) and multiple rows with understory vegetation by elm (Ulmus minor L.) and poplar, respectively. Tree water consumption was determined through sapflow measurements. The seasonal reference evapotranspiration (ETo) for field crops was 876–995 mm without wind breaks and dropped to less than half through multiple row wind breaks with understory vegetation (50 m spacing). Tree water consumption was 1125–1558 mm for poplar and 435 mm for elm. Among the wind break crop systems, elm wind breaks resulted in the highest reductions of water consumption, followed by single row poplars, at spacing of 50 and 100 m, respectively. However, elm grows much slower than poplar, so poplars might be more attractive for farmers. Furthermore, single row wind breaks might by much easier to be integrated into the agrarian landscape as they consume less space.