Water usage in agriculture

By 2050, the world’s population is expected to grow by 10 billion, which means the food demand will be doubled and so will food production. 

How much water is used for agriculture?

As PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA) highlights, about 85% of total water resources in the world are used for agricultural purposes, especially for irrigated agriculture. Other resources, such as High Tide Technologies claim it is 70% of water usage. Only 30% of water consumed by the agriculture industry is used for livestock and the rest is used for farming.

The food production demands are high, especially the crops, fruits, and vegetables so the water demand will continue to rise and due to poor irrigation, a large amount of water is lost, roughly around 40%. Plants need water for every growing stage, from seeding to harvest.

Plant protection is an ag operation that requires highest water use. Tank mix solution with plant protection products contains 98 to 99% water and only a small percentage are ag chemicals (ag inputs- pesticides in this case). In a traditional farming method, farmers usually spend 200l of tank-mix solution for 1 ha in plant protection processes (an example). 

Water use by crop type 

Most water intensive crops are rice, cotton, sugarcane, soybean and wheat whereas tobacco, corn, and sunflower require less water. How much water is needed for a specific crop production, depends on the crop characteristics, environment (water use data by crop type is not the same in every country) and crop management. Switching to precision agriculture to grow crops that demand much water is the first step to saving water resources and becoming a sustainable business. 

Precision agriculture is a solution for efficient water use

With precision agriculture technology, farmers and agronomists can have more data about their field which will help them make better decisions. The best way to decrease water use in agriculture is to have data about plant health and the condition of the soil. As a result, water and input management are improved. With precise information about their field, farmers can pinpoint the exact areas of stress and other problems on the field, and apply necessary measures only on problematic areas. 

The key to efficient water management is not applying nutrients or performing irrigation evenly on the whole field, but only in the amount that is required and in the areas that require it.

The most efficient ways to save water in agriculture 

Two most efficient ways to save water are to know exactly where to spray herbicides to fight weeds and how much herbicide to spend. As pesticides are mixed with water (90% of it is water), it is important to know the amount you need for spraying. Knowing the vegetation state of your plants is another way to save water in agricultural operations. Obtaining precise information about where in the field the poor vegetation is, would mean you can only water areas with poor or no vegetation and skip watering areas with excellent vegetation. 

How can Agremo app help farmers and ag businesses reduce water usage?

Agremo’s Weed Detection analysis automatically identifies the exact location of weed-infested areas, allowing farmers to prevent further weed infestation on the field. The result of this analysis is a map with precisely marked areas with high weed pressure and low weed pressure. Moreover, weed analysis activates two additional tools within the Agremo app- one of which is a variable prescription tool called Spraying Tool. The Spraying tool creates an Rx or “Prescription” map, a digital georeferenced (shapefile) which contains specific information about input rates to be applied in every zone of a field.

 In simple words, this analysis provides users with the field condition report and the prescription map (it is like when you go to the doctor and get a diagnosis and a prescription). 

The workflow goes like this:

  1. A user uploads a drone image and runs the Weed analysis to identify weed locations on the field
  2. The analysis result shows areas of weed and suggested management zones that will be used in the Spraying Tool
  3. A user assigns rates and creates Prescription files (Variable Rate Prescriptions). 

Based on this, users can optimize application operations by applying the right amount of herbicide to the right spots. Following these inputs by using modern ag machinery we can save up to 20% of water by ha, depending on the crop, stage, and soil type.

Another field analysis that could save water use is Plant vigor. Plant Vigor analysis identifies the exact location, condition, strength, and lushness of vegetation. It helps determine where to perform soil samplings or apply necessary ag operations. The result of the Plant Vigor analysis shows the four levels of plant vigor: area with excellent plant vigor, area with good vigor, area with poor vigor, and area with no vegetation.

A user can use Plant Vigor analysis as an assistance tool in irrigation management. Combining the results of Plant Vigor analysis with soil moisture sensors can enable users to detect which areas require less water in irrigation, i.e., excellent vegetation will usually require less water when compared to poor vegetation.

Both analyses are included in the Crop Monitoring annual subscription package together with other field analytics features and agricultural tools for precision agriculture. 

How much water can be saved? 

Here is an example of one of our successful use cases:

Last June, our client wanted to use a drone to execute a plant protection operation on a cornfield of 10ha. 

With our Weed Detection analysis and spraying tool prescriptions, the client used 90% less water compared to traditional agricultural practice. Instead of 200 liters/ha, it was spent only 15l per ha. 

 If we for example use full rate- 200liters/ ha of tank-mix (water+ pesticide) in traditional agriculture practice for pre-sowing phase to weed treatment, then in precise ag practice the average usage of solution will be around 150 liters/ha, and that gives us one conclusion. 

We save 50 liters/ha of water, or 20%,  just for pre-sawing herbicide treatment.

Additionally, for farmers who don’t have the opportunity to spray with drones, our technology can enable them to spray with the full rate only where the weeds are detected, and where they aren’t, they can halve the spraying rate and go with 100 liters/ha.

Our app detected zones under stress and their agronomists adjusted further applications of pesticide use. 

On average we can save 30liters/ha of water, which is an average save rate of water of 15% per hectare.

 

Reference links:

https://www.lenntech.com/water-food-agriculture

https://www.pnas.org/content/117/36/21985

https://htt.io/water-usage-in-the-agricultural-industry/ 

https://www.cropscience.bayer.com/people-planet/natural-resource-conservation/a/making-every-drop-count

https://www.fao.org/3/ca5789en/CA5789EN.pdf

https://www.fao.org/3/CA1588EN/ca1588en.pdf

https://publications.iwmi.org/pdf/H046807.pdf

https://saiplatform.org/uploads/Library/Fact%20Sheet%203.%20The%2010%20%20key%20issues%20for%20Water%20Management%20at%20a%20farm%20level.pdf

https://www.worldbank.org/en/topic/water-in-agriculture#3

https://www.netafim.com/en/precision-irrigation-academy/

 

 

 

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    What precision agriculture activities do you need?

    • Plant Stress

      • identify and quantify zones of (potential) stress
      • act timely with the most adequate measures
      • increase yield potential
    • Weed Detection

      • spot weed-infested areas in time
      • take immediate effective in-season corrective measures
      • get precise spraying maps
    • Green Snap Detection

      • identify and classify areas with broken plants in the field
      • locate and quantify the crop damage
    • Lodging Detection

      • detect and classify areas with lodged plants
      • locate and quantify the crop damage
    • Stand Count

      • get the precise number of plants in a specific area
      • evaluate seed quality
      • assess field damages
      • know the zones of potential yield losses
    • VRS Stand Count

      • calculate the percentage under the norm in each zone with the same seeding rate
      • reduce input costs in the low-productivity field areas
      • count plants in the best and the worst zones
    • Plant Vigor

      • get data on the exact location, condition, strength, and lushness of vegetation
      • optimize the usage of inputs, save on them and prevent over-application
    • Waterlogging Detection

      • quickly and accurately locate all potential waterlogged areas in your field
      • reduce the negative effects of waterlogging, regardless of the field size and crop sort
    • Hail Damage

      • analyze the percentage of areas damaged by hail or other bad weather events
      • evaluate different levels of damage in the field
      • assess crop damage precisely
    • Canopy Cover

      • get vital data on vegetation conditions and primary plant productivity
      • get the necessary details regarding the leaf area index (LAI)
      • determine the most optimal LAI for the fruits, vegetables, or cereals

       

    • Plant Stress

      • identify and quantify zones of (potential) stress
      • act timely with the most adequate measures
      • increase yield potential
    • Weed Detection

      • spot weed-infested areas in time
      • take immediate effective in-season corrective measures
      • get precise spraying maps
    • Green Snap Detection

      • identify and classify areas with broken plants in the field
      • locate and quantify the crop damage
    • Lodging Detection

      • detect and classify areas with lodged plants
      • locate and quantify the crop damage
    • Stand Count

      • get the precise number of plants in a specific area
      • evaluate seed quality
      • assess field damages
      • know the zones of potential yield losses
    • VRS Stand Count

      • calculate the percentage under the norm in each zone with the same seeding rate
      • reduce input costs in the low-productivity field areas
      • count plants in the best and the worst zones
    • Plant Vigor

      • get data on the exact location, condition, strength, and lushness of vegetation
      • optimize the usage of inputs, save on them and prevent over-application
    • Waterlogging Detection

      • quickly and accurately locate all potential waterlogged areas in your field
      • reduce the negative effects of waterlogging, regardless of the field size and crop sort
    • Hail Damage

      • analyze the percentage of areas damaged by hail or other bad weather events
      • evaluate different levels of damage in the field
      • assess crop damage precisely
    • Canopy Cover

      • get vital data on vegetation conditions and primary plant productivity
      • get the necessary details regarding the leaf area index (LAI)
      • determine the most optimal LAI for the fruits, vegetables, or cereals