The aim of farmer is to produce “more crop per drop”, hence there is need to find the irrigation techniques which consumes less fresh water. To make better use of our limited freshwater resources, growers need to have not only an efficient method of delivering the water to the plants, but also an efficient watering schedule, so that the plants are getting watered with the right amounts at the right time.
Worldwide, the bulk of water use is dedicated to agriculture – it accounts for approximately 66% of water diverted from natural sources for human use and 85% of water consumption.
In the arid western United States, it’s not uncommon for irrigation to represent 75%-90% of all diversions. It is expected that, without improved efficiency, agricultural water consumption increases by 20% by 2050 worldwide.
Globally, about 40% of the world’s total food supply comes from irrigated land; in the US, the irrigated fraction of agricultural land has reached 18%, but this relatively small area produced half the total crop value. As the Earth’s population grows, demand for food will also grow.
How will water use affect global production and trade of fruit and vegetables?
In some areas of the world farming might become impossible because of water scarcity or incredibly high prices for water. In the long run agriculture will only thrive in countries with a sustainable water strategy. Only a tiny minority of the required increase in food production can come from expanding development of arable land, or by increasing the number and types of crops grown per year. And as population increases, the demand for water for non-agricultural purposes will also grow. World water demand is projected to increase by 55% between 2000 and 2050, and most of this increase will come from manufacturing, electricity production, and urban and domestic use. So in a drier world, getting the amount of water used by irrigation under control is a necessity.
New technologies might go a long way toward helping us reach that goal. “There are still a lot of farms that are using very inefficient forms of irrigation, where you just basically release the water onto your field,” said Kari Hamerschlag, a senior agriculture analyst at Environmental Working Group in Oakland. “There should be some enforcement policy that holds farms to a higher standard.”
How efficient is irrigation today?
For people who are not familiar with the topic it is pretty shocking to hear how many farmers are still using flood or furrow irrigation: Water is pumped or brought to the fields and is allowed to flow along the ground among the crops. This method is simple and cheap, and is widely used by societies in less developed parts of the world as well as in the US Flood irrigation is not always as wasteful as it seems, because often the surplus water runs back into surface streams or groundwater aquifers. But efficiency is harder to achieve, said Dennis Chessman, state agronomist at the Natural Resources Conservation Service, a branch of the US Department of Agriculture.
Who is currently developing the best, smartest and cost-effective systems for smart irrigation? AgroPress will offer a comprehensive information on the current state of technology.