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Irrigated crops visualizations

Climate is a limiting factor for crop growth. If temperature is suitable for crop growth all year round, then the availability of sufficient rainfall determines the growing season for rainfed crops. Irrigation takes away the water availability constraint and could then allow cultivating all year round. For the purpose of increasing the data and information on irrigation water requirement, irrigation water withdrawal and irrigation efficiency, AQUASTAT has undertaken a major review of typical irrigated crop calendars by country. These irrigated crop calendars provide for each country data and information on: the area equipped for irrigation, the area actually irrigated, the harvested irrigated crop area, the irrigated area by crop and the percentage of irrigated area by crop occupied by month. The calendars refer to the years for which data was available. A detailed description of the methodology used is available on the Irrigation water use page.

In the two dropdown menus at the bottom of this page we provide visualizations of irrigated crop calendars: (i) by region (for a specific region: all crops irrigated and when) and (ii) by crop (for a specific crop: all regions where that crop is irrigated and when). On the Irrigated crop calendars page, visualization of the irrigated crop calendar by country is given in the third dropdown menu.


The data source of these plots are the individual crop calendars for each country, available in the Irrigated crop calendars page. This section describes the six steps performed to generate these charts.

  1. All crop calendars were combined into one big table.
  2. All crop names were made consistent, which means removing symbols if present and correcting minor inconsistencies (ex. 'banana' vs 'bananas').
  3. For China, India and the United States of America, for which irrigated crop calendars were prepared for 3 or 4 sub-national entities, the irrigated areas were divided into sub-national areas which are each treated as an individual country. They are only re-aggregated for the regional analyses, therefore no national charts were prepared for those 3 countries.
  4. Country plots were generated from this data. Plots represent percents (of total area).
  5. For the aggregated plots, crops were further classified into hierarchies, following the crop classification mentioned above, because different countries report irrigated crops at different levels of aggregation (ex. one country might report Cereals, while another might report Wheat). This approach allows for a more sensical comparison to other groups. Plots represent total areas, since percents are not additive.
  6. Countries were classified into the the AQUASTAT regions, given below.

The crop classification used in the visualizations is the one given on page 144-146 of the FAO Statistics report A system of integrated agricultural censuses and surveys, which are the guidelines prepared for World Census of Agriculture 2010.

The regional classification used is the one available in AQUASTAT, but at different levels of aggregation in order to balance climate, geography, and area under irrigation, so as to provide enough, but not too much, detail. See this file.


"The big picture"

A very interesting output of this exercise, in addition to the irrigated crop calendar visualizations further below, is the comparison of irrigated crops against regions. If we look just at the areas irrigated by crop instead of 'when' the crops are irrigated (the crop calendar), we obtain the following two figures, which show irrigated crop overviews at different levels of resolution.

Please note: for these two charts, the colour has been truncated at 5 million hectares (number shown is 5 000 and the unit is 1000 ha), instead of having the full range from lowest to highest value. The reason for this is that the values of some cells are so high that the rest of the chart would appear white. So this means that all cells that have a value larger than 5 000, have the same darkest colour. The value of each cell is provided in black text inside each cell, for those cells where the number is less than 5 000 and in white for those cells where the number is larger than 5 000.

Click on the chart to magnify

When aggregating crops a bit more, we obtain:

Click on the chart to magnify

Irrigated crop calendars...

... by region

These images show all crops that are irrigated in each region. This gives an impression of what the regional priorities are. The question answered in these charts is: For each region, what crop is irrigated when and to what extent?

... by crop

These images show the regions where each crop is irrigated. The question answered in these charts is: For each crop, where and when does irrigation take place and to what extent?

[Date of preparation: May 2015]

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       Quote as: FAO. 2016. AQUASTAT website. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). Website accessed on [yyyy/mm/dd].
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       Your access to AQUASTAT and use of any of its information or data is subject to the terms and conditions laid down in the User Agreement.