More Crop per Drop

Tanja Folnovic

Agronomy Expert

As we all know fresh water is one of the most important things in daily life.  But we also know for reducing sources of it and with 70% of freshwater used in agriculture it is obligatory to achieve more water productivity. It is obvious that with growing population, there will be bigger need for food and therefor it's vital to use water in agriculture in more observant way. Rainfed agriculture accounts for 60 percent of food production in developing countries on 80 percent of arable land. On the other hand, only 20 percent of the arable land in developing countries is irrigated, but it produces around 40 percent of all crops and close to 60 percent of cereal production. It is expected that irrigated area will increase for 20 percent in coming decades.

Water efficiency

Agriculture has to achieve more 'crop per drop' to increase water efficiency. That should be done in two ways:

  1. Improving the efficiency of rain-fed production
  2. Modernisation of irrigation technologies

Optimizing the yields from existing crop production would enable farmers to grow more food with similar water volumes. To achieve that there is a need for effective spreading of agronomic knowledge and allowing farmer access to inputs including good quality seed and crop protection to reduce pre- and post-harvest losses to pests and diseas. Every crop that is lost is inefficient water management. These days it takes around 1,5 cubic meters of water to yield 1kg of crop and from that 15-35% of fresh water is unsustainable. Predictions saying that water consumption demands rise an additional 18% by the year 2050 in developed world and even 40% in developing world so it’s even more important to use it right in agriculture.

Flint River Partnership Initiative

One great example of dissemination of agronomic knowledge can be seen in Georgia, USA. To improve the efficiency of agricultural water use and to move innovative irrigation and conservation practices from the research laboratory to the field, a coalition of farmers, researchers, conservationists and private companies joined together in the Flint River Partnership Initiative. The partnership began by extending newly adapted irrigation methods and technologies to fields, such as variable rate irrigation systems that can adjust the amount of water applied to different places depending on soil needs and weather conditions. This system saves an average of 15 percent water use each year and can be adapted to most center-pivot irrigation systems worldwide. As it is shown on this example, it is possible to adjust the water use in agriculture. More crop per drop is essential in increasing productivity and decreasing exploitation and water use. Learning how to get more food with less water will ensure us to grow food we need but without damage on availability of fresh water.

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