Modern technologies in agriculture a way to increase water savings

Nowoczesne technologie

Water and agriculture have been closely intertwined since the dawn of time. Today, it is the agricultural sector that accounts for the consumption of more than 70 percent. of the Earth’s total freshwater resources. The area of artificially irrigated crops and the amount of water allocated for this purpose is increasing every year. Climate change and repeated droughts are not helping, and their negative effects are being felt on virtually every continent. The critical situation seems to be recognized by all links in the existing chain of socio-political-economic ties. Is modern technology in agriculture the way to master the crisis and a better future?

Water crisis – who and how are trying to deal with shortages

March 2023 UN Water Conference. is a good example of how the water crisis is an issue being taken seriously at the highest levels of government. International organizations are sounding the alarm ever louder. The European Union, in implementing the Common Agricultural Policy, emphasizes the sustainable use of resources, including water. One of the EU’s important initiatives for the next few years is also the so-called “European Union”. Blue Deal, or the development of a European strategy for comprehensively addressing water management in the Old Continent. However, adverse changes in the surrounding world are affecting farmers and agri-food producers the hardest. Another dry year prompts them to implement needed changes in their approach to farm management and water, which is becoming a scarce commodity.

Irrigation needed on all continents

Recent years have been marked by record temperatures and expanding areas of drought and desertification on virtually every continent. The top countries with the largest agricultural areas under artificial irrigation have invariably for years been: India, China and the US. It is estimated that there are more than 60 million hectares of crops in China alone, with annual irrigation water withdrawals exceeding 350 billion cubic meters. By comparison, there are more than 20 million hectares of agricultural land under artificial irrigation in the US, for which “only” 80 billion cubic meters of water are used annually.

In contrast, in the European Union, about 20 percent. agricultural areas are artificially irrigated, and water use averages 10-15 billion cubic meters per year. Among EU countries, Mediterranean countries and Portugal record the largest areas of artificially irrigated land. The agricultural land of the listed countries together accounts for more than 85 percent. of the total EU land covered by irrigation systems.

Artificial irrigation of agricultural crops today is primarily a feature of large-scale and specialized farms that can afford modern technologies in agriculture, such as irrigation systems equipped with water cannons, sprinklers, drip tapes or micro-sprinklers. This is also the reality of entities that have easy access to abundant water sources (usually natural reservoirs like lakes or rivers) or draw water from deep wells. However, current knowledge and scientific observations indicate more and more clearly that some solutions are ad hoc and will even exacerbate water scarcity problems in the long term. This translates into finding effective ways to reduce consumption and minimize water losses in agriculture. Technology in agriculture is a way to operate effectively in the here and now, but with an eye to the future.

Technologies in agriculture – examples of modern solutions

In response to growing demand, an increasing number of players are emerging to offer modern solutions for agriculture, a key feature of which is conscious management of water on the farm. It’s not just a matter of water-efficient, high-tech and elaborate irrigation systems that eliminate inefficient water use. Intelligent sprinkler controllers are already available to users of artificial irrigation systems, which automate the irrigation program in relation to the current weather conditions. Such controllers allow you to control the process remotely and respond to alarm situations at any time. Technology in agriculture also includes smart sensors that monitor any malfunctions of equipment, so the farmer can reduce financial losses associated with breakdowns. There is also a wide range of wireless soil sensors.

Most often, they measure the moisture, salinity and temperature of the soil at a given site, which translates into real savings in the use of fertilizers, water and crop protection products. Farmers are also being offered stationary and mobile weather stations to provide the most important and accurate weather data. Modern applications for irrigation decision support in the cultivation of a specific plant species, such as grapevines, greenhouse plants, flowers, fruit bushes, orchard or nursery plants, are also becoming more common. They are an expert tool aimed at a narrow audience.

In the face of recurring droughts and temporary restrictions on the availability of potable water, applications have also appeared on the market that, based on meteorological data and weather forecasts, support decisions on whether to start or stop artificial irrigation and its intensity. What’s more, in the U.S., more and more users are taking advantage of local apps to help manage their on-farm water use in relation to current local laws and top-down limits on water use during periods of drought. This is of great importance in agricultural states, such as California and Texas, which are suffering the most from climate change.

The role of Poland in the development of modern technologies for agriculture

An example of an agricultural application is Poland’s Naiad Irrigation, which fits in with the tenets of “smart farming.” It is a state-of-the-art decision support for crop irrigation rates. As a result, the farmer will reduce water consumption by 20-40 percent. relative to traditional irrigation methods. Currently, the application is a prototype, the development of which is being carried out, among other things. via field studies at the experimental fields of the University of Siedlce. Scientific observations include wheat, corn and potato as model crops, but the application’s functionality will include all common crops, especially those sensitive to water stress.

Through modern technology and detailed data analysis, Naiad Irrigation will optimize the use of water resources for a given crop. The premise of the application is to achieve the most economically advantageous ratio of harvested yield to water used throughout the vegetation process of a given plant. What distinguishes it from its competitors is the multi-track processing of information from all available sources in order to obtain objective results of the analysis carried out. Another distinguishing feature is a kind of “intelligence” of the application – an analysis of the impact of water management of a plant species on its growth, development and yield is carried out, which allows to increase the effectiveness of the applied technology in real time.

It also uses blockchain technology as a method of storing and securing data. The use of the Naiad Irrigation application is expected to bring tangible benefits to the farmer in the form of reduced water use, reduced crop irrigation expenses and increased yields per hectare. Such technologies in agriculture could be one of the best ways to maintain food security in the world.

Technologies in agriculture the future of the industry

Agriculture is fully dependent on the climate and its changes, and farmers can only try to adapt and implement solutions to mitigate adverse events. Agricultural producers around the world are looking to save on resource consumption while maximizing their yields. The realization of these goals prompts them to use innovative solutions that, step by step, lead the entire agricultural industry toward advanced technological transformation. Observations of changes on the planet clearly indicate that innovation and rapid transformation is the only right path to food and water security.

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