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Peak grain forecasts for the US High Plains amid withering waters

Mrad, Assaad and Katul, Gabriel G. and Levia, Delphis F. and Guswa, Andrew J. and Boyer, Elizabeth W. and Bruen, Michael and Carlyle-Moses, Darryl E. and Coyte, Rachel and Creed, Irena F. and van de Giesen, Nick and Grasso, Domenico and Hannah, David M. and Hudson, Janice E. and Humphrey, Vincent and Iida, Shin’ichi and Jackson, Robert B. and Kumagai, Tomo’omi and Llorens, Pilar and Michalzik, Beate and Nanko, Kazuki and Peters, Catherine A. and Selker, John S. and Tetzlaff, Doerthe and Zalewski, Maciej and Scanlon, Bridget R. (2020) Peak grain forecasts for the US High Plains amid withering waters. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 117 (42). pp. 26145-26150. ISSN 0027-8424. PMCID PMC7584902.

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Irrigated agriculture contributes 40% of total global food production. In the US High Plains, which produces more than 50 million tons per year of grain, as much as 90% of irrigation originates from groundwater resources, including the Ogallala aquifer. In parts of the High Plains, groundwater resources are being depleted so rapidly that they are considered nonrenewable, compromising food security. When groundwater becomes scarce, groundwater withdrawals peak, causing a subsequent peak in crop production. Previous descriptions of finite natural resource depletion have utilized the Hubbert curve. By coupling the dynamics of groundwater pumping, recharge, and crop production, Hubbert-like curves emerge, responding to the linked variations in groundwater pumping and grain production. On a state level, this approach predicted when groundwater withdrawal and grain production peaked and the lag between them. The lags increased with the adoption of efficient irrigation practices and higher recharge rates. Results indicate that, in Texas, withdrawals peaked in 1966, followed by a peak in grain production 9 y later. After better irrigation technologies were adopted, the lag increased to 15 y from 1997 to 2012. In Kansas, where these technologies were employed concurrently with the rise of irrigated grain production, this lag was predicted to be 24 y starting in 1994. In Nebraska, grain production is projected to continue rising through 2050 because of high recharge rates. While Texas and Nebraska had equal irrigated output in 1975, by 2050, it is projected that Nebraska will have almost 10 times the groundwater-based production of Texas.

Item Type:Article
Related URLs:
URLURL TypeDescription Information CentralArticle
Mrad, Assaad0000-0003-4922-4446
Katul, Gabriel G.0000-0001-9768-3693
Levia, Delphis F.0000-0002-7443-6523
Guswa, Andrew J.0000-0002-4651-6606
Boyer, Elizabeth W.0000-0003-4369-4201
Bruen, Michael0000-0002-5614-9432
Carlyle-Moses, Darryl E.0000-0002-8358-4317
Coyte, Rachel0000-0001-6369-5311
Creed, Irena F.0000-0001-8199-1472
van de Giesen, Nick0000-0002-7200-3353
Grasso, Domenico0000-0002-6644-0848
Hannah, David M.0000-0003-1714-1240
Hudson, Janice E.0000-0002-4927-4892
Humphrey, Vincent0000-0002-2541-6382
Iida, Shin’ichi0000-0001-7912-2219
Jackson, Robert B.0000-0001-8846-7147
Kumagai, Tomo’omi0000-0001-8331-271X
Llorens, Pilar0000-0003-4591-5303
Michalzik, Beate0000-0001-7858-1771
Nanko, Kazuki0000-0002-1157-9287
Peters, Catherine A.0000-0003-2418-795X
Selker, John S.0000-0001-9751-6094
Tetzlaff, Doerthe0000-0002-7183-8674
Zalewski, Maciej0000-0002-4483-6200
Scanlon, Bridget R.0000-0002-1234-4199
Additional Information:© 2020 the Author(s). Published by PNAS. This open access article is distributed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives License 4.0 (CC BY-NC-ND). Edited by Peter H. Gleick, Pacific Institute for Studies in Development, Environment, and Security, Oakland, CA, and approved August 31, 2020 (received for review April 30, 2020). PNAS first published October 5, 2020. This paper stems from discussions during the Ettersburg Ecohydrology Workshop in Germany (October 2018), with the corresponding manuscript preparation ensuing in subsequent months. The workshop was funded by the UNIDEL Foundation, Inc. and the University of Delaware. Accordingly, partial support for this paper derived from funding for the workshop. A.M. was supported by the US NSF (Grants NSF-AGS-1644382 and NSF-IOS-175489). E.W.B., M.B., D.E.C.-M., R.C., I.F.C., N.v.d.G., D.G., D.M.H., J.E.H., V.H., S.I., R.B.J., T.K., P.L., B.M., K.N., C.A.P., J.S.S., D.T., and M.Z. contributed equally to this work. Author contributions: A.M., G.G.K., D.F.L., and B.R.S. designed research; A.M., A.J.G., and M.B. performed research; A.M., G.G.K., D.F.L., A.J.G., N.v.d.G., V.H., C.A.P., and B.R.S. analyzed data; and A.M., G.G.K., D.F.L., A.J.G., E.W.B., M.B., D.E.C.-M., R.C., I.F.C., N.v.d.G., D.G., D.M.H., J.E.H., V.H., S.I., R.B.J., T.K., P.L., B.M., K.N., C.A.P., J.S.S., D.T., M.Z., and B.R.S. wrote the paper. The authors declare no competing interest. This article is a PNAS Direct Submission. This article contains supporting information online at
Funding AgencyGrant Number
University of DelawareUNSPECIFIED
Subject Keywords:crop production; groundwater; Hubbert curve; Ogallala aquifer; peak water
Issue or Number:42
PubMed Central ID:PMC7584902
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20201006-134332683
Persistent URL:
Official Citation:Peak grain forecasts for the US High Plains amid withering waters. Assaad Mrad, Gabriel G. Katul, Delphis F. Levia, Andrew J. Guswa, Elizabeth W. Boyer, Michael Bruen, Darryl E. Carlyle-Moses, Rachel Coyte, Irena F. Creed, Nick van de Giesen, Domenico Grasso, David M. Hannah, Janice E. Hudson, Vincent Humphrey, Shin’ichi Iida, Robert B. Jackson, Tomo’omi Kumagai, Pilar Llorens, Beate Michalzik, Kazuki Nanko, Catherine A. Peters, John S. Selker, Doerthe Tetzlaff, Maciej Zalewski, Bridget R. Scanlon. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Oct 2020, 117 (42) 26145-26150; DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2008383117
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:105844
Deposited By: Tony Diaz
Deposited On:07 Oct 2020 00:14
Last Modified:04 Nov 2020 17:57

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