Ecosystem services and surface water irrigation strategies to bridge dry season yield gaps in Southern Bangladesh


Johannes Scholberg (FSE Wageningen UR)
Pablo Tittonell (FSE Wageningen UR)
Timothy Krupnik (International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center)


Farmers across Southern Bangladesh are experimenting with new surface water irrigation equipment that facilitate the production of a second, dry season crop such as wheat, maize, or legumes, in addition to the usual rainy season rice crop. As the world’s most densely populated and largest deltaic environment, Bangladesh drains three large rivers that have their origins in the Himalayas. Much of the region experiences periodic tidal inflow that create a fresh water table “lens” that remains close (within 1.5-2.5 m) of the soil surface. This “free” underground water may offer opportunities to establish a crop with very little irrigation, after which the crop may be able to sustain itself  by accessing tidally replenished water in the soil profile.


Conduct your research in a variety of villages across Southern Bangladesh, in which the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) is working with Wageningen University. Implement linked agronomic-social research to determine appropriate irrigation schedules for dry season crops in this unique environment. Examine the potential to use soil moisture conserving cropping practices (e.g., conservation agriculture) and appropriate irrigation scheduling, while benefiting from the ecosystem service of available shallow ground water, to close dry season yield gaps. A critical additional aspect of this work is the investigation of farmers’ decision making regarding when and why to schedule irrigation in different environments, with special consideration of farmers’ willingness to invest in alternative dry season crops. Working with CIMMYT, your research will have immediate practical impact – the results of your thesis will be incorporated into CIMMYT’s farmer training programs to enable the communication of locally appropriate crop intensification recommendations to farmers at scale across Southern Bangladesh.