Development of water saving irrigation strategies for improving food security in the
Presently an increasing degradation of soil and water resources is a verified global trend which is a significant threat to food production. Moreover, recently the UN projected a population development of up to 13 billion people by the year 2100. In this light food security is a major issue especially in regions with a lack of resources like e.g. the arid countries of the Arabian Peninsula. For countries were irrigation is mandatory, food production has to adopt water saving agricultural management strategies in general and especially water saving irrigation strategies to conserve as much precious water as possible. Besides choosing water efficient crops, controlled deficit irrigation is the strategy which allows for the highest water use efficiency. This method relies on sound information on the system of Soil, Vegetation and Atmosphere Transport (SVAT). Field and greenhouse trials deliver monitoring data which are subsequently used by physiologic plant growth models to simulate plant growth and yield development under different water supply scenarios (Virtual Field). This procedure is demonstrated in Fig. 1.
Fig. 1, single steps and iterative procedure to find optimal irrigation schedules
A result of these simulations are Crop Water Production Functions which relate the
plant yield to the water input necessary to produce this yield. Employing these CWPFs
within an optimization procedure like e.g. GET- OPTIS we can find the irrigation schedules
with the highest water use efficiencies for a specific crop.
Compared to the common irrigation practice this method allows a savings up to 50% of water by increasing the yield up to 30% at the same time which highlights the potential of this approach.
In order to make such an approach practical for farmers the results of the simulations can be converted to easily intelligible irrigation plans as e.g. shown in Fig. 2.
Fig.2 Example for an easily intelligible irrigation plan which was calculated for a specific field
On this basis it becomes also possible to develop a UAE Irrigation Atlas which allows farmers to develop their own irrigation schedules due to their specific soils, plants and irrigation system on a visual basis.
Fig 3. Example of an Irrigation Atlas for surface irrigation on loamy soil
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