of China Australia Food Security Cooperation Initiative (CAFSCI)

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Growing more rice with less water: Increasing water productivity in rice-based cropping systems

Overview of Project

Rice is a vital food staple in China with a large part of the population dependant on rice production. Most of this rice is produced using irrigation and using valuable water resources. Water useage in China is rising, prompting China to promote water-saving irrigation (WSI) techniques. This project was aimed to address these issues by linking Chinese and Australian laboratories to promote water management techniques in rice-based irrigation systems that reduce water consumption and do not decrease crop production. In particular this project aimed to further investigate the technique of alternate wetting and drying, and to compare it to the techniques of saturated soil culture and aerobic rice in China.

Key Outcomes of Project

Water saving irrigation using alternative wetting and drying is a viable option for farmers in the Zhanghe Irrigation System (ZIS). Studies confirmed that alternate wetting and drying can be practiced without yield losses, while saving significant irrigation water. Farm surveys revealed that at the farm level the maintenance of yields does not affect profitability. The key finding was that farmers will practice water saving only by default. At the catchment level the artificial creation of water scarcity will prompt farmers to adopt water saving irrigation without reducing yields or profits, providing farmers know how to implement such techniques.

Project Dates

01 Jul 2001 - 30 Jun 2005


CSIRO Land and Water - Australia
Wuhan University of Hydraulic and Electric Engineering - China
International Water Management Institute - Sri Lanka
International Rice Research Institute - Philippines


Randolph Barker


Launch Website