Agriculture relies on many elements to produce food, but the most important of them is water. Irrigated agriculture accounts for 40% of global food production. At the same time, this sector consumes about 70% of the world’s water withdrawals, and only 10% is used efficiently. Today, population growth and climate change are making the problem of water waste even more acute.
Many regions are working to reduce water consumption, for example, by harvesting rainwater. Drip irrigation systems are gaining more and more popularity with farmers. In addition, there are other agriculture solutions provided with innovative technologies that will help us manage water waste even more efficiently in the future. In this piece, you can learn more about water waste in agriculture and how to deal with this problem.
Challenges for water in agriculture
Various government institutions, as well as a lack of funding, limit potential improvements in water management. Line ministries and agencies are not in the most favorable conditions for improving the efficiency and functionality of the agricultural water supply. In addition, the maintenance of the irrigation systems is poor. Mismanagement and inadequate operation lead to the fact that existing systems regularly lose their performance and need to be restored.
With all the existing problems and constraints, agricultural water resources management is going through a transformation period. Reorienting to a more modern and sustainable approach will take time. This approach involves providing incentives for innovation, transforming water management practices, and creating new sustainable services in the sector.
Can agricultural water usage be efficient?
It turns out that there is no question of saving resources. The spent water resources are not fully utilized due to outdated and ineffective irrigation systems. Sprinkler heads are often used for watering, which evaporates half of the water. Recovering water that could have been used elsewhere but evaporated instead takes time, money, and energy. Fortunately, in today’s world, there are many ways to improve water use. The list of such solutions includes, for example, drip irrigation.
Drip irrigation systems, of course correctly installed, contribute up to 80% water savings. In addition, farmers can develop their reservoirs and thereby relieve pressure on local watersheds. Despite the effectiveness of the proposed solutions, humanity should not stop at what has already been achieved because, in 30 years, there will be several billion more of us. Population growth implies an increase in the need for food, which means that all resources must be used as efficiently as possible.
Tips to water saving
Irrigation scheduling helps control how water is delivered and watering time and amount of water consumed. It is necessary to monitor the weather forecasts to plan irrigation and avoid waste efficiently. Smart sensors help monitor soil moisture. Based on these data, it is possible to regulate irrigation and supply water to certain zones where it is needed. Watering can also be done in the evening or at night when water evaporation slows down.
Drought-tolerant crops are the best option for growing in regions with water or natural rainfall. They are drought tolerant and will not die as a result of this phenomenon. Such crops include olives, tepary beans, and Armenian cucumbers. In any case, when choosing crops, one should rely on climatic conditions.
Collecting rainwater in purpose-built rainwater barrels on the farm provides additional resources. It is rather convenient during the period of heavy rains. After the rainy season, when drought sets in, the naturally obtained rainwater can be used to irrigate your crops.
Crop rotation is a practice that involves changing crops from season to year. Many farmers use this method to take care of the soil, maintain diversity and ensure fertility. It works because different crops need different nutrients, and they have time to recover as the plants change. Thus, you can increase yields without depleting the soil.
Californian farmers practice dry farming to grow olives, tomatoes, grapes, and apple trees. They rely on soil moisture in dry seasons without irrigation. In this case, a particular method of soil cultivation plays an important role. It is also essential to take into account the peculiarities of the microclimate. This type of farming involves improving the taste of products. However, it should be noted that dry farming yields less yield.
Conservation tillage involves the use of specialized plows and partial tillage implements. About 30% of vegetative crops must remain on the surface. This practice helps to increase water absorption and reduce evaporation. Moreover, conservation tillage avoids erosion and soil compaction.
Going organic brings positive changes to the environment. Organic farming practices help reduce environmental impact and conserve resources. In addition, research by the Rodale Institute reports that corn from organic farms yielded 30 percent more crops in dry years than corn from traditional farms.
Organic farms do not use synthetic chemicals and pesticides, and it helps to reduce water pollution. Thus, pure water remains in the soil saturated with organic matter. The organic fields also replenish the groundwater supply.
Waste of water in agriculture is a rather acute problem today. Fortunately, technological advances and reliable agricultural practices bring new ways to conserve water. Irrigation schedules, soil moisture sensors, and drip irrigation systems help farmers plan irrigation efficiently and deliver the valuable resource only to the areas that need it. Saving water also helps increase yields, which may contribute to meeting the growing demand for agricultural products.