Water Use Efficiency in Onion Production and Assessment of Improvement Strategies

Document Type : Research Paper


1 Water Science and Engineering Department, Faculty of Agriculture, University of Zanjan, Zanjan, Iran.

2 National Planning Expert, Management and Planning Organization, Zanjan, Iran.

3 Department of Water Science and Engineering, Faculty of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Imam Khomeini International University, Qazvin, Iran.

4 Agricultural Extension and Rural Development, Agricultural Extension and Education Department, Faculty of Agriculture, Tarbiat Modares University, Tehran, Iran.


The present study was conducted to survey water use efficiency in onion production and field evaluation of its improvement strategies. In the first phase, 12 onion farms located in Zanjan plain were selected and studied. The factors related to productivity such as inflow discharge, water consumption, irrigation program, soil nutrition, crop yield, production costs and revenue were determined and then the physical and economic indicators of water productivity were calculated. In the second phase, irrigation management was implemented as a practical solution to improve water use efficiency in the control treatments and compared with the results from actual conditions. Based on the results of field monitoring, the average volume of water consumption in onion farms was obtained about 19626 m3/ha and the average water productivity indices CPD, BPD, and NBPD were calculated 3.14 kg/m3, 68 and 40 thousand Rials/m3, respectively. On average, implementation of proper irrigation program led to a reduction of 58 percent of water consumption and, consequently, an increase of 147 percent of the water use efficiency index in experimental farms. Using the wrong pattern in irrigation programming and lack of control and supervision over the exploitation of water resources were identified as the main reasons for excessive water consumption in onion farms. The results showed that only by correcting the irrigation time, the volume of water consumption can be reduced significantly and the water use efficiency can be improved.


Main Subjects

  1. Abasi, F., Abasi, N., & Tavakoli, A.R. (2017). Water productivity in agriculture; Challenges and prospects. Iranian Journal of Water and Sustainable Development, 4(1), 141-144. (In Persian).
  2. Abera, M., Wale, A., Abie, Y., & Esubalew, T. (2020). Verification of the efficiency of alternate furrow irrigation on amount of water productivity and yield of onion at Sekota Woreda. Irrigation and Drainage Systems Engineering, 9(4), 1-5.
  3. Afshar, H., Sharifan, H., Ghahraman, B., & Bannayan Aval, M. (2020). Investigation of wheat water productivity in drip irrigation (tape) (Case study of Mashhad and Torbat-e-Heydariyeh). Iranian Journal of Irrigation and Drainage, 14(1), 39-48. (In Persian).
  4. Aminpour, R., & Mousavi, S.F. (2006). Effect of different irrigation regimes and mother-bulb size on seed quality and quantity of onion (Allium cepa). Iranian Journal of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, 13(2), 1-9. (In Persian).
  5. Baghani, J. (2012). Effect of irrigation methods on yield and agronomic characteristics of long-days onion cultivars. Iranian Journal of Water and Soil, 26(2), 251-259. (In Persian).
  6. Bossio, D., Geheb, K., & Critchley, W. (2010). Managing water by managing land: Addressing land degradation to improve water productivity and rural livelihoods. Agricultural Water Management, 97(4), 536-542.
  7. Daneshi, N., Lamei Harvani, J., & Taghadosi, M.V. (2005). The effect of planting methods on water use efficiency and quantitative and qualitative properties of onions in Zanjan. In: Proceeding of 9th Soil Science Congress of Iran, 27 August, Soil Conservation and Watershed Management Research Center, Tehran, Iran. (In Persian).
  8. Drechsel, P., Qadir, M., & Baumann, J. (2022). Water reuse to free up fresh water for higher-value use and increase climate resilience and water productivity. Irrigation and Drainage, 1-10.
  9. Fan, Y., Wang, C., & Nan, Z. (2014). Comparative evaluation of crop water use efficiency, economic analysis and net household profit simulation in arid Northwest China. Agricultural Water Management, 146, 335-345.
  10. Geries, L.S.M., El-Shahawy, T.A., & Moursi, E.A. (2021). Cut-off irrigation as an effective tool to increase water-use efficiency, enhance productivity, quality and storability of some onion cultivars. Agricultural Water Management, 244, 106589.
  11. Gholami, M., Mazloumi, M., & Ghaderpor, L. (2009). The importance of water productivity in agriculture Case study: Marvdasht-Ramjard plain. In: Proceeding of National Conference on Water Crisis Management, February, Islamic Azad University, Marvdasht, Fars, Iran, 1-12. (In Persian).
  12. Haile, G.G., Gebremicael, T.G., Kifle, M., & Gebremedhin, T. (2019). Effects of irrigation scheduling and different irrigation methods on onion and water productivity in Tigray, Northern Ethiopia. BioRxiv, 1-35.
  13. Heydari, N. (2014). Water productivity in agriculture: challenges in concepts, termsand values. Irrigation and Drainage, 63(1), 22-28.
  14. Igbadun, H.E., Ramalan, A.A., & Oiganji, E. (2012). Effects of regulated deficit irrigation and mulch on yield, water use and crop water productivity of onion in Samaru. Nigeria. Agricultural Water Management, 109, 162-169.
  15. Iran Water Resources Management Company. (2017). Monitoring the exploitation of water resources in Sefidroud. (In Persian).
  16. Izadkhah, M., Tajbakhsh, M., Zardoshti, M. R., & Hasnzadeh, A. (2010). Evaluation effects of different planting systems on water use efficiency, relative water content and some plant growth parameters in onion (Allium cepa). Notulae Scientia Biologicae, 2(1), 88-93.
  17. Izadkhah, M., Tajbakhsh, M., Zardoshti, R., Hasnzade, A., Taheri, F., Saber Rezaei, M., Feghnabil, F., & Parvizi, S. (2009). Investigation the influence of planting methods on bulb and biologic yield, harvest index and some morphological traits in onion (Allium cepa). Online International Journal of Agronomy and Biology, 2(4), 189-193.
  18. Javan, J. and Falsoleiman, M. (2008). Water crisis and importance of water productivity in agriculture in dry area of Iran (Case study: Birjand plain). Iranian Journal of Geography and Development, 6(11), 115-138. (In Persian).
  19. Kang, S.Z., Hao, X.M., Du, T.S., Tong, L., Su, X.L., Lu, H.N., Li, X.L., Huo, Z.L., Li, S.E., & Ding, R.S. (2017). Improving agricultural water productivity to ensure food security in China under changing environment: From research to practice. Agricultural Water Management, 179, 5-17.
  20. Karandish, F., Salari, S., & Darzi Naftchali, A. (2015). Spatial prioritizing of the onion producing in warm and arid regions (Case study: Sistan and Bluchestan Province). Iranian Journal of Plant Production, 22(1), 191-209. (In Persian).
  21. Karimi, B., Karimi, N., Shiri, J., & Sanikhani, H. (2022). Modeling moisture redistribution of drip irrigation systems by soil and system parameters: regression-based approaches. Stochastic Environmental Research and Risk Assessment, 36, 157-172.
  22. Karimi, M., & Jolaini, M. (2017). Investigation of agricultural productivity indices in important crops, Case study: Mashhad plain (Technical Note). Iranian Journal of Water and Sustainable Development, 4(1), 133-138. (In Persian).
  23. Kaviani, A., Sohrabi, T., & Araste, P. (2011). Application of SEBAL algorithm in estimating the actual evapotranspiration of agricultural water in Qazvin plain and comparing its results with lysimeter data. Iranian Journal of Irrigation and Drainage, 5(2), 165-175. (In Persian).
  24. Keshavarz, A., & Dehghanisanij, H. (2012). Water productivity index and the future strategy of the country. Iranian Journal of Economic Strategy, 1(1), 199-233. (In Persian).
  25. Khankahdani, H.H., Mohammadi Jahromi, A., Molla Hasani, A., & Mohammadi Jahromi, M. (2013). Effect of different irrigation intervals on yield and yield components of four onion cultivars in hot and humid climates. Iranian Journal of Water Research in Agriculture, 27(2), 137-147. (In Persian).
  26. Kifle, M., Gebremicael, T.G., Girmay, A., & Gebremedehin, T. (2017). Effect of surge flow and alternate irrigation on the irrigation efficiency and water productivity of onion in the semi-arid areas of North Ethiopia. Agricultural Water Management, 187, 69-76.
  27. Kifle, M., Tilahun, K., & Yazew, E. (2008). Evaluation of surge flow furrow irrigation for onion production in a semiarid region of Ethiopia. Irrigation Science, 26, 325-333.
  28. Kjine, J.W., Barker, R., & Molden, D. (2003). Water productivity in agriculture. Colombo, Sri Lanka: Cabi press.
  29. Liu, J., Zehnder, A. J. B., & Yang, H. (2008). Drops for crops: modelling crop water productivity on a global scale. Global Nest Journal, 10(3), 295-300.
  30. Mohammadi, F., Ojaghlou, H & Ghorbanian, M. (2021). Effect of water resources utilization methods on olive water use efficiency. Iranian Journal of Water and Irrigation Management, 11(3), 643-658. (In Persian).
  31. Molden, D., Murray-Rust, H., Sakthivadivel, R., & Makin, I. (2001). A water productivity framework for understanding and action. Workshop on Water Productivity, 12-13 November. Wadduwa, Sri Lanka.
  32. Mosavand, S., & Ghafari, H. (2015). Estimating economic value of water in onion production in Zanjanrud Basin. Iranian Journal of Water Research in Agriculture, 29(4), 548-557. (In Persian).
  33. Nahvinia, M.J., Shahidi, A., Parsinejad, M., & Karimi, B. (2010). Assessing the performance of SWAP model in estimating the production of wheat under salinity and water stress (case study: Birjand, Iran). Iranian Water Research, 4(6), 43-58. (In Persian).
  34. Nazari, B., Liaghat, A., & Akbari, M. (2016). Water economics and food security, analysis of the importance of strategic agricultural products in terms of combined water productivity index (Case study: Moghan plain). In: Proceeding of the First National Conference on Water Economics, 26 July. The Ministry of Energy, Tehran, Iran. (In Persian).
  35. Ojaghlou, H., Sohrabi, T., Abbasi, F., & Javani, H. (2020). Development and evaluation of a water flow and solute transport model for furrow fertigation with surge flow. Irrigation and Drainage, 69, 682-695.
  36. Onion (Dried) Production in 2020: Crops/World Regions/Production Quantity from Pick Lists. (2020). Food and Agriculture Organization, statistics division (FAOSTAT).
  37. Piri, H. (2018). Effect of different levels of irrigation and nitrogen fertilizer on onion yield and water use efficiency in three irrigation methods. Iranian Journal of Water Research in Agriculture, 32(2), 187-200. (In Persian).
  38. Qi, W., Zhang, Z., Wang, C., & Huang, M. (2021). Prediction of infiltration behaviors and evaluation of irrigation efficiency in clay loam soil under Moistube irrigation. Agricultural Water Management, 248, 106756.
  39. Rastegar, J., & Baghani, J. (2012). Effect of different irrigation methods on bulb yield of onion cultivars. Iranian Journal of seed and plant, 28-2(2), 209-223. (In Persian).
  40. Sabbagh Tazeh, E., & Sadeghian, N. (2020). The effect of pumice on irrigation schedule and nutritional quality of onion in two types of soil texture under deficit irrigation. Iranian Journal of Environmental Science and Technology, 22(4), 67-78. (In Persian).
  41. Sabbagh Tazeh, E., Sadeghian, N., & Rameshknia, Y. (2019). Effect of mineral superabsorbent on some characteristics of soil and growth parameters of onion (Allium cepa) under limited irrigation. Iranian Journal of Soil and Water Resources Protection, 9(1), 87-104. (In Persian).
  42. Sabbaghi, A.R., Golchin, A., & Delavar, M.A. (2011). The effect of irrigation interval and different levels of nitrogen on yield and some quality characteristics of onion. In: Proceeding of the First National Congress of New Agricultural Sciences and Technologies, 11 September. University of Zanjan, Zanjan, Iran. (In Persian).
  43. Scheierling, S.M., Tréguer, D.O., & Booker, J.F. (2016) Water productivity in agriculture: Looking for water in the agricultural productivity and efficiency literature. Water Economics and Policy, 2(3), 1650007.
  44. Semida, W.M., Abdelkhalik, A., Rady, M.O.A., Marey, R.A., & El-mageed, T.A.A. (2020). Exogenously applied proline enhances growth and productivity of drought stressed onion by improving photosynthetic efficiency, water use efficiency and up regulating osmoprotectants. Scientia Horticulturae, 272, 109580.
  45. Sepahvand, M. (2009). Comparing water need, water productivity and its economic productivity for wheat and canola in western Iran for rainy years. Iranian Journal of Water Research, 3(4), 63-68. (In Persian).
  46. Shahnavazi, A. (2017). Onion total factor productivity in Iran. Iranian Journal of Agricultural Economics Research, 9(4), 153-172. (In Persian).
  47. Singh, R., Van Dam, J.C., & Feddes, R.A. (2006). Water productivity analysis of irrigated crops in Sirsa district, India. Agricultural Water Management, 82, 253-278.
  48. Solat, S., Alinazari, F., Maroufpoor, E., Shiri, J., & Karimi, B. (2021). Modeling moisture bulb distribution on sloping lands: Numerical and regression-based approaches. Journal of Hydrology, 601, 126835.
  49. Taheri, M., Abasi, M., Daneshi, N., & Ebrahimi Pak, N.A. (2015). Assessing effect of different irrigation intervals and planting methods on onion yield. Iranian Journal of Water Research in Agriculture, 29(1), 11-19. (In Persian).
  50. Temesgen, T., Ayana, M., & Bedadi, B. (2018). Evaluating the effects of deficit irrigation on yield and water productivity of furrow irrigated onion (Allium cepa) in Ambo, West. Ethiopia. Irrigation and Drainage Systems Engineering, 7(1), 1-6.
  51. Vazifedoust, M., Alizadeh, A., Kameli, Gh., & Feizi, M. (2008b). Increasing agricultural water productivity in irrigated farms in Barkhoar region of Isfahan. Iranian Journal of Water and Soil (Agricultural Sciences and Industries), 22(2), 484-495. (In Persian).
  52. Vazifedoust, M., Van Dam, J.C., Feddes, R.A., & Feizi, M. (2008a). Increasing water productivity of irrigated crops under limited water supply at field scale. Agricultural Water Management, 95, 89-102.
  53. Verdinejad, V., Sohrabi, T., Heydari, N., Araghinejad, Sh., & Mamanpoush, A. (2009). Investigation of supply and demand and estimation of agricultural water productivity in Zayandehrood catchment area (Case study of irrigation network on the right side of the Abshar). Iranian Journal of Irrigation and Drainage, 2(3), 88-98. (In Persian).
  54. Wakchaure, G.C., Minhas, P.S., Kumar, S., Khapte, P.S., Meena, K.K., Rane, J., & Pathak, H. (2021). Quantification of water stress impacts on canopy traits, yield, quality and water productivity of onion (Allium cepa) cultivars in a shallow basaltic soil of water scarce zone. Agricultural Water Management,249, 106824.
  55. Wakchaure, G.C., Minhas, P.S., Meena, K.K., Singh, N.P., Hegade, P.M., & Sorty, A.M. (2018). Growth, bulb yield, water productivity and quality of onion (Allium cepa) as affected by deficit irrigation regimes and exogenous application of plant bio-regulators. Agricultural Water Management,199, 1-10.
  56. Zheng, J., Huang, G., Wang, J., Huang, Q., Pereira, S., Xu, X., & Liu, H. (2013). Effects of water deļ¬cits on growth, yield and water productivity of drip-irrigated onion (Allium cepa) in an arid region of Northwest China. Irrigation Science, 31, 995-1008.
  57. Zibayi, M. (2007). Factors affecting continuity in using sprinkler irrigation systems in Fars Province, comparison of logistic regression and discriminant analysis. Iranian Journal of Agricultural Economics, 1(2), 183-194. (In Persian).
  58. Zwart, S.J., & Bastiaanssen, W.G. M. (2004). Review of measured crop water productivity values for irrigated wheat, rice, cotton and maize. Agricultural Water Management, 69(2), 115-133.