Differing Effect of Drought on Irrigated versus Rainfed Agriculture in the United States

Authors: Junyu Lu*, Arizona State University
Topics: Climatology and Meteorology, Agricultural Geography, Quantitative Methods
Keywords: Extreme weather; Agriculture; Drought; Irrigation
Session Type: Virtual Guided Poster
Day: 4/7/2021
Start / End Time: 3:05 PM / 4:20 PM
Room: Virtual 54
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Drought poses great threats to natural habitats, ecosystems, and economic and social sectors, especially agriculture. Severe drought can significantly reduce soil-water availability, contribute to crop failure and pasture losses, and hence threatening food security. Drought events with similar severity could have differing impacts on agriculture depending on the physiology of the crops and the local adaptive capacity of the agricultural system, such as farming management and irrigation. In this study, we used state- and county-level irrigated vs. non-irrigated crop yield data for the 10 major crops: corn grain, soybeans, hay, spring wheat, winter wheat, cotton, corn silage, sorghum, barley, and rice from 1950 to 2014 in the United States. This study quantitatively estimates the benefits of irrigation, both from the absolute increase in crop yield and stability of crop yields in response to drought stress. To investigate the effect of irrigation on the sensitivity of agriculture to drought, we used an analysis of covariance (ANCOVA) and built a panel data regression model for each crop. Our results indicate that irrigation can boost crop yield by ensuring adequate water to meet crop water needs. The responses of crops to drought are non-linear for all crops, no matter for the irrigated or non-irrigated crops. The irrigated crops require less natural rainfall to achieve maximum growth because of irrigation supplements. The irrigated crops are not highly dependent on the weather and climate variations. The non-irrigated crops are more sensitive to drought than the irrigated crop, especially in severe drought conditions.

Abstract Information

This abstract is already part of a session. View the session here.

To access contact information login