Water is a precious element that occupies more than 60% of the planet. However, there is only a limited amount of fresh water which is threatened by effects of climate change and human activities. Fresh water is mainly found in rivers, streams, wetlands, and lakes. Unfortunately, it only accounts to about 2.5% of all water on Earth, according to the UN.
In agriculture, water is an important resource that is required by plants throughout their growing period. In areas that do not receive adequate rainfall, irrigation is the only alternative. It can be done in different ways such as by sprinkling, using drip lines, or over-head irrigation. Crops have different water requirements and hence different methods can be used to apply water. The efficiency of irrigation methods varies depending with the crop.
Knowing the most efficient irrigation method and achieving uniform water application is one of the greatest challenges to most fruit farmers. For instance, overhead irrigation can be efficient in apple and avocado farming and not in strawberry and grape farming. The soil type and drainage, crop, elevation of the land, field size and weather conditions determine the efficiency of an irrigation system.
Key water challenges
As the global population increases, the demand for fresh water and food increases. This means that more land will be converted for agricultural activities to sustain the growing population. In the next 2 decades, the demand for fresh water will have increased by 30%.
What are some key water challenges that are currently being experienced?
- Water pollution especially in towns which contributes to a decrease in safe water for farming and sanitation services.
- Climate change
- Water-related natural calamities such as drought and floods
- Increased food production which has resulted to an increase in the amount of water withdrawn from water sources for irrigation.
The solution to water challenges
Fresh water is an important resource that is required by the entire natural ecosystems. It, therefore, needs to be preserved and protected all the time. Some of the solutions that can be employed to solve water challenges include:
- Practicing agroforestry – fruit farming is one of the solutions to climate change. Apart from enhancing greener environments, they can also be a good source of income.
- Restoring natural wetlands and grasslands
- Practicing sustainable water use in agriculture. This can be done by using drip and sprinkler irrigation methods.
- Reconnecting rivers to flood plains
How sustainable farmers respond to water challenges
Agriculture is considered the main consumer of fresh water, contributing to 70 percent of water withdrawals. Irrigation is an important component that enhances crop production. However, unsustainable farming practices such as extensive use of fertilizers and pesticides will lead to water contamination.
As a response to these challenges, fruit farmers should consider sustainable practices and nature-based solutions like:
- Using efficient irrigation methods such as drips and only practice irrigation when necessary.
- Harvest rain water for irrigation
- Minimize water pollution by applying fertilizers and pesticides wisely
Why farmers should consider using drip irrigation
Drip lines can be used for irrigation and fertigation (application of pesticides and water-soluble nutrients). These days, fruit farmers are extensively using drip irrigation in their farms. By doing so, farmers are:
- Preventing soil erosion and maintaining soil productivity
- Reducing pesticide, fertilizer, and water use
- Reducing irrigation and farming costs
- Increasing yield quantity and quality
It is the role of every farmer to promote water conservation. We encourage farmers to embrace technological advancements to make fruit farming more profitable by cutting farming costs and minimizing water loss. Drip irrigation is the most efficient irrigation method in passion, strawberry, and grape orchards.