The water-food-energy nexus optimization approach to combat agricultural drought: a case study in the United States
The frequent recent drought events in the Great Plains of United States have led to significant crop yield reductions and crop price surges. Using an integrated water-food-energy nexus modelling and optimization approach, this study laid the basis for developing an effective agricultural drought management system by combining real-time drought monitoring with real-time irrigation management. The proposed water-food-energy simulation and optimization method is spatially explicit and was applied to one major corn region in Nebraska. The crop simulations, validated with yield statistics, showed that a drought year like 2012 can potentially reduce the corn yield by 50% as compared to a wet year like 2009. The simulation results show that irrigation can play a key role in halting crop losses due to drought and in sustaining high yields of up to 20t/ha. Nevertheless, the water-food-energy relationship shows that significant investments on water and energy are required to limit the negative effects of drought. The multi-criteria optimization problem developed in this study shows that the optimal crop yield does not necessarily correspond to the maximum yield, resulting in potential water and energy savings.
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