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Producing more with less water - the secret of sustainable agriculture

Posted on 26 August 2014.

In the race to protect natural resources, water is probably one of the most crucial issues.

No wonder the expression "blue gold" is often used to describe liquid fresh water, which represents only 1% of global reserves. The finger is pointed at the agricultural sector, which will have to work extra hard to reduce consumption.

Globally, agriculture alone accounts for 70% of our water consumption. It is a huge challenge, but so is the hope - that the transition to sustainable agriculture will have a decisive impact on protecting resources.

Some people think that the change is already underway, with the priority being to control irrigation. The approach used by the designers of the "i-crop systemTM" focuses on accuracy and adapting it to the environment. Developed by the University of Cambridge in the UK, the i-cropTM system gave 46 farmers the opportunity to save an average of 8% of their water consumption in one year. The system includes sensors placed in the soil that analyze soil moisture, and a weather station that collects data in real time. Farmers can access this information online before deciding exactly when and how to water. Irrigation based on information is not only ecologically sound, but benefits farmers - their yields increased 13% over the same period.

Reducing water consumption also means limiting losses. In 1959, this simple but critical consideration led Simcha Blass and his son to design the drip irrigation system. No more liters and liters of water that evaporated in the sun, irrigation was now closer to the plant, the water flowing slowly in simple drilled plastic piping. Since then, the system has been perfected to reduce the use of water to a minimum. Thus on the North China Plain wheat growers have been employing "deficit irrigation" for the last six years. The plants are watered at critical stages in their growth. The result? Water consumption has decreased by 25%. The "stress" placed on the plants even sometimes stimulates growth: in south east Australia, deficit irrigation for fruit trees has not only helped to increase crop water productivity by 60%, but has also produced fruit of better quality, with no loss of yield.

For more information:

- The i-crop technology