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Water usage in agriculture & how it can be managed

by Atlanta Business Journal

India is a vast economy with the agricultural sector being one of the major revenue generators. Over 70 per cent of rural households earn their livelihood from agriculture.

Agriculture contributes approximately 17% to the total GDP and generates employment ventures for 58% of the nation’s population. Thus, it becomes imperative to understand the diverse agricultural practices and their due significance. Agriculture is a science that revolves around the practice of farming, cultivation of the soil for the growing of crops and irrigation. ‘Irrigation’ also known as ‘Watering’ is a practice of extreme significance in agriculture. It is the process of nurturing land with the right amount of water to encourage the production of crops and is also used to grow landscape plants and lawns. Water is a pivotal input for healthy crop growth and plays a key role in food security. Irrigated agriculture represents 20 % of the total cultivated land and contributes to 40 % of the total farm produce universally. The staple crops like rice, wheat and sugarcane constitute about 90% of India’s domestic production and evidently, the mentioned are the most water-consuming crops. One of the precious natural resources, water, forms the foundation of agriculture and its efficient management is crucial for agricultural success.

Mulching & important protective farming products: The concept and art of Protective farming plays a vital role in the improved yield of crops and better farming practices which eventually leads to efficient water management in agriculture. The major benefits of protective farming include prevention of soil erosion, protection from weeds, yield increase of 40%-100%, growth of white roots on surface, reduced water usage etc. In contemporary agriculture, there are various ways available to protect a crop like Mulch films, Crop Cover, Fruit Cover, Shade Net, Agri Wire etc. The art of ‘Mulching’ is a well tried and tested method of agricultural water management. It can be defined as the practice of applying a layer of material (Organic & Non-organic) to the surface of soil. Effective mulching leads to the conservation of soil moisture, improves fertility and health of the soil and curbs weed growth. Fresh or old hay, grain straws, forage, tree leaves, poultry manure etc. are examples of organic mulches while polythene sheets are widely used as inorganic mulches. Since the usage of mulches leads to the conservation of soil moisture, temperature regulation and reduced soil evaporation, it is considered one of the finest ways of water conservation. It is noteworthy that inorganic mulching is considered more effective than organic mulching.

Inclusion of healthy and protective farming practices like using Crop Cover, Fruit Cover, Shade Net, etc. also plays a significant role in the smart water management in agriculture. It is notable that using such protective farming practices not only protects the vegetables,fruits and crops but also encourages the growth of white roots on the surface.

White roots absorb minerals and nutrients from the soil, thereby, leading to a healthy yield.

A Shade Net is crucial in agricultural water management as it protects the plants from the intense heat of the sun, especially during the harsh summer season. It is imperative for the plants to have the optimal temperature and the environment which is friendly enough for enhancing the rate of production and water management. The mentioned protective farming products are the effective ways to ascertain increased yield of crops, effective water management and overall healthy ecosystem.

Instalment of efficient watering/irrigation system: The practice of farming is usually carried out with the conventional method of spraying. While the mentioned method may produce healthy crops, it leads to water drainage. Contemporary Agro-Science has invented the new-age irrigation method of ‘Drip Irrigation.’ Drip irrigation or Trickle irrigation is a form of micro-irrigation that has the potential to save water and nutrients by allowing water to drip slowly to the roots of plants, either from above the soil surface or buried below the surface.

Watering with drip irrigation instead of the traditional overhead spray method can decrease evaporation exponentially and can proficiently save 80 % of water. Moreover, it also ensures that the water penetrates the soil surface and reaches the plant’s roots, which can lead to better growth.

Rainwater harvesting/storage: Strategic and smart storage of rainwater can also be an important way of water management in agriculture. The incorporation of large rain barrels to store the water during excessive rainfalls is certainly a pragmatic way of water storage which can later be utilised for crop irrigation. The practice of storing rainwater persistently can help recharge local aquifers, reduce urban flooding, and most importantly ensure water availability in water-scarce zones and during natural calamities like drought. Fortunately, the art of rainwater harvesting has been an ancient agricultural practice in India. Namely, Mandakas, Ahar Pynes, Surangas, Taankas etc. are some of the popular and widely used rainwater harvesting methods in India.

Crop Rotation: The practice of crop rotation has also been recognised as an effective way of water management in agriculture. It refers to the process of planting different crops sequentially on the same plot of land to improve soil health, optimise nutrients in the soil, and combat pest and weed pressure. The best part about the practice of crop rotation is the replenishment of soil with vital nutrients. If followed constantly, crop rotation can lead to improved soil structure and fertility by alternating deep-rooted and shallow-rooted plants.

Enriching the soil with various nutrients reduces soil erosion and enhances infiltration capacity which further reduces downstream flood risks. Crop Rotation imparts numerous benefits to the soil like replenishment of nitrogen through the use of green manure in sequence with cereals and other crops. Subsequently, healthier soil absorbs vital nutrients from the water in a better capacity and does not require large quantities of water.

It is rightly said that water is a blessing of nature and a gift of life. The abundance of water as a resource is indispensable as it impacts a nation’s economy and mainly the various aspects of agriculture like crop irrigation which eventually leads to food production along with being a primary source of energy generation too.



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Views expressed above are the author’s own.



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