EGU General Assembly 2021
© Author(s) 2021. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Post-Soviet changes in irrigated crop production in the Amu Darya Basin

Daniel Müller1,3,5, Andrey Dara2, Christopher Krause3, Mayra Daniela Peña-Guerrero1,3, Tillman Schmitz1,3, Atabek Umirbekov3, Yanbing Wei3,4, and Philippe Rufin1,5
Daniel Müller et al.
  • 1Geography Department, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin
  • 2CarbonSpaceTech, Inc.
  • 3Leibniz Institute of Agricultural Development in Transition Economies (IAMO), Halle (Saale), Germany (
  • 4Key Laboratory of Agricultural Remote Sensing, Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs/Institute of Agricultural Resources and Regional Planning, Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences
  • 5Integrative Research Institute on Transformations of Human-Environment Systems (IRI THESys), Humboldt Universität zu Berlin

Water withdrawals for irrigated crop production constitute the largest global consumer of blue water resources. Monitoring the dynamics of irrigated crop cultivation allows to track changes in water consumption of irrigated cropping, which is particularly paramount in water-scarce arid and semi-arid areas. We analyzed changes in irrigated crop cultivation along with occurrence of hydrological droughts for the Amu Darya river basin of Central Asia (534,700 km2), once the largest tributary river to the Aral Sea before large-scale irrigation projects have grossly reduced the amount of water that reaches the river delta. We used annual and seasonal spectral-temporal metrics derived from Landsat time series to quantify the three predominant cropping practices in the region (first season, second season, double cropping) for every year between 1988 and 2020. We further derived unbiased area estimates for the cropping classes at the province level based on a stratified random sample (n=2,779). Our results reveal a small yet steady decrease in irrigated second season cultivation across the basin. Regionally, we observed a gradual move away from cotton monocropping in response to the policy changes that were instigated since the mid-1990s. We compared the observed cropping dynamics to the occurrence of hydrological droughts, i.e., periods with inadequate water resources for irrigation. We find that areas with higher drought risks rely more on irrigation of the second season crops. Overall, our analysis provides the first fine-scale, annual crop type maps for the irrigated areas in the Amu Darya basin. The results shed light on how institutional changes and hydroclimatic factors that affect land-use decision-making, and thus the dynamics of crop type composition, in the vast irrigated areas of Central Asia.

How to cite: Müller, D., Dara, A., Krause, C., Peña-Guerrero, M. D., Schmitz, T., Umirbekov, A., Wei, Y., and Rufin, P.: Post-Soviet changes in irrigated crop production in the Amu Darya Basin, EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-16266,, 2021.

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