Guest Column | September 3, 2021

Reducing Irrigation Water Wastage With Precision Agriculture

By Tania Holembovska


Water is the source of life on our planet and an essential resource for agriculture. Agriculture accounts for 70 percent of the consumption of this resource. At the same time, water is not endless and many regions today suffer from an acute shortage.

One-fifth of the world's population lives under constraints, and this trend is not declining. According to UN forecasts, by 2025, there will be about 1.8 billion people in conditions of water shortages due to climate change. For agriculture, the lack of this precious resource is a threat. The productivity of this sector is directly dependent on water. Therefore, it is vital to preserving this resource, prevent water erosion, and reduce consumption. 

Ways To Reduce Water Wastage

Thanks to advances in technology and modern practices, there are various ways to reduce water wastage. They can help you manage this valuable resource. In addition, it’s an excellent way to care for the environment and soil.

Collecting water in the soil

The use of this method assumes that two conditions are met. You need to favor the water infiltration and to improve field capacity. A lot of water is lost during tillage as the clods are exposed to the air. However, the goal of increasing water infiltration through treatment often does not pay off, especially in arid regions.

Minimal or no-tillage allows the soil to settle. In addition, you leave crop residues on the ground that inhibit evaporation. Water will slowly penetrate and stay in the soil without flowing to the surface, even in heavy rains.

Besides minimizing or eliminating tillage, there is another effective way to reduce water waste. Cover crop cultivation is a time-honored soil management practice that also helps conserve water. This way, the soil does not remain bare between crops.

Keeping the water inside the soil

When water gets into the soil, it is crucial to avoid evapotranspiration, which leads to losses. It is better to carry out the surface treatment in the summer and without soil cultivation. It will help interrupt the rise of the water capillaries to preserve the lower soil layers. If you are growing crops that require staggered rows, consider weeding. This procedure helps to maintain water resources in the ground.

In addition to direct evaporation, weeds can also negatively affect the water supply in the bud. To limit the effects of these factors, you can resort to mulching using biodegradable films or plant materials. Thus, you can estimate the water supply in the soil and reduce its consumption for irrigation.

When preparing and shaping the beds, it is also essential to ensure a sufficient soil moisture level. In this way, you promote a plant root system that can cope with arid conditions. In combination with mulching, raised beds work to promote a healthy crop. Organic matter also plays a vital role in field water storage and infiltration. The use of organic matter preserves the porosity of the soil and helps to save water.

Choosing the proper irrigation system

The health of the soil and the crop largely depends on the efficiency of the irrigation system. This parameter can be determined by the ratio of the water used and the amount of water collected by the pump. With ineffective irrigation, it is challenging to achieve water savings. The least efficient irrigation systems are those that operate by flooding or flow. In addition to their low efficiency (up to 50 percent), they also contribute to the leaching of nutrients.

Sprinkler irrigation systems are slightly more efficient (up to 80 percent). However, because their water is pushed out under pressure, they need more energy to work. Efficiency up to 90 percent can be provided by those systems that accurately distribute water near plants. They are located close to the soil or directly in it. Thus, the water does not evaporate, remaining on the stems of the plants, but reaches the roots.

The best solution is to select the systems that provide the most accurate irrigation. Choose an irrigation system that does not allow significant water evaporation and does not leach nutrients from the soil. In addition, it is essential that when watering, salts do not fall into the areas investigated by the roots.

How Precision Agtech Improves Irrigation Efficiency

Drip irrigation systems are the most effective irrigation solution. This irrigation method can help reduce water consumption by up to 70 percent. Furthermore, the root system develops better than any other irrigation method, and water and nutrients are consumed. Unlike sprinkler irrigation, drip irrigation does not allow water to reach the leaves, thereby reducing the spread of disease and preventing fungicides and insecticides from entering the soil. Currently, only 2 percent of farms are using such systems due to the high initial cost.

Water flow meters are a reliable water management tool that can help you measure how much water has been used for irrigation. These tools help to reduce the waste of water significantly. You can also get data for a specific period, and measuring the flow rate will provide an opportunity to detect leaks and other system problems.

Soil sensors help farmers maintain a healthy resource and determine the amount of water needed for irrigation. This sensor is one of the main tools for precision farming. It remains in the soil and transfers data from the location to the device to analyze and change the flow if necessary. Thanks to this device, you can assess the condition of the roots and the level of nutrients to prevent them from washing out and losing water.

Farmers actively use apps as they cover many areas and activities in agriculture. Irrigation management apps are also quite beneficial for modern farming. They can help you to stay informed and react to the changes in time. You can also control the irrigation process using your smartphone. Customize irrigation equipment based on current conditions, or plan a procedure based on crop information and data from weather stations in your area.

Final Thoughts

Agriculture is one of the primary consumers of water in the world. Unfortunately, today this sector is still faced with the loss of water, but methods of conserving this valuable resource are also being invented and developed. Proper irrigation is the key to a healthy crop and soil fertility, which is why it is so essential to make the right choice. Various technologies will also help save water on a modern farm, including soil sensors and mobile applications for setting, planning, and monitoring irrigation.

Tania Holembovska is a motivated and avid content writer at Tania believes in the power of geospatial data and custom algorithms.