Environmental Science and Pollution Research

, Volume 26, Issue 2, pp 1227–1237 | Cite as

Optimizing irrigation and nitrogen requirements for maize through empirical modeling in semi-arid environment

  • Ishfaq AhmadEmail author
  • Syed Aftab Wajid
  • Ashfaq Ahmad
  • Muhammad Jehanzeb Masud Cheema
  • Jasmeet Judge
Water Industry: Water-Energy-Health Nexus


Uncertainty in future availability of irrigation water and regulation of nutrient amount, management strategies for irrigation and nitrogen (N) are essential to maximize the crop productivity. To study the response of irrigation and N on water productivity and economic return of maize (Zea mays L.) grain yield, an experiment was conducted at Water Management Research Center, University of Agriculture Faisalabad, Pakistan in 2015 and 2016. Treatments included of full and three reduced levels of irrigation, with four rates of N fertilization. An empirical model was developed using observed grain yield for irrigation and N levels. Results from model and economic analysis showed that the N rates of 235, 229, 233, and 210 kg ha−1 were the most economical optimum N rates to achieve the economic yield of 9321, 8937, 5748, and 3493 kg ha−1 at 100%, 80%, 60%, and 40% irrigation levels, respectively. Economic optimum N rates were further explored to find out the optimum level of irrigation as a function of the total water applied using a quadratic equation. The results showed that 520 mm is the optimum level of irrigation for the entire growing season in 2015 and 2016. Results also revealed that yield is not significantly affected by reducing the irrigation from full irrigation to 80% of full irrigation. It is concluded from the study that the relationship between irrigation and N can be used for efficient management of irrigation and N and to reduce the losses of N to avoid the economic loss and environmental hazards. The empirical equation can help farmers to optimize irrigation and N to obtain maximum economic return in semi-arid regions with sandy loam soils.


Water scarcity Irrigation amount N losses Water productivity 



The authors are grateful to the staff of Water Management Research Institute (WMRI), University of Agriculture Faisalabad-Pakistan (UAF) for their support in conducting the experiment. The authors would like to thank all researchers of Agro-Climatology Lab, Department of Agronomy, UAF, for technical guidance. We also thank to Mr. Mohammad Hassan Fallah of Research Scientist Crop Ecology, Ferdowsi University of Mashhad, Iran for helping us in statistical data analysis.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ishfaq Ahmad
    • 1
    Email author
  • Syed Aftab Wajid
    • 1
  • Ashfaq Ahmad
    • 1
  • Muhammad Jehanzeb Masud Cheema
    • 2
  • Jasmeet Judge
    • 3
  1. 1.Agro-Climatology Lab. Department of AgronomyUniversity of AgricultureFaisalabadPakistan
  2. 2.Department of Irrigation & DrainageUniversity of AgricultureFaisalabadPakistan
  3. 3.Center for Remote Sensing, Agricultural & Biological Engineering DepartmentUniversity of FloridaGainesvilleUSA

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