NL: “Water is becoming as precious or more precious than fertilisers”

Staff
4 Min Read

How to use water more efficiently? Thoughtful use of available water is becoming increasingly important for farmers and horticulturists. In times of water scarcity, irrigating crops with surface water can no longer be taken as a given. Recent, dry summers have confirmed that the sector needs to maximize the potential of alternative water sources, now and in the future. In the third episode of Radio Inagro, farmers Johan and Bart testify about their approach to counter the effects of climate change.

Efficient water usage
“Depending on the source, it is important to use water more efficiently. Nevertheless, it is also important to check how much water you consume and why, and to analyze potential alternatives. In this way, you can find out whether it’s possible to irrigate differently, or at a different time. Namely, it is not only a matter of providing extra water, but also a matter of more efficient water usage,” says water broker Dries Mergaert in the podcast.

Vegetable grower and pig farmer Johan also notices that efficient water usage is becoming increasingly important. “Five or six years ago, farmers were not that concerned with water because the seasons were more normal. Now we experience a big change, like last winter. I think it’s a shame that all that rainwater just runs off.” In anticipation of innovative techniques and sustainable solutions, Johan tries to use water as efficiently as possible. “I feel that the sector is changing its approach towards water. That’s why I look at the possible opportunities and test new techniques, but I haven’t found the golden solution yet. I remain hopeful, though.”

Animal drink water consumption
When it comes to animals, it is also important to use water more efficiently. “We will never save on animals’ drinking water consumption, but we can save water in another way: avoid wastage as much as possible,” explains An Cools.

“Looking for innovative irrigation techniques”
Through a variety of trials – in projects with various (inter)national partners or on its own – research center Inagro is broadening its practical knowledge on irrigation and efficient water usage.The results are a source of information for independent and applied advice for growers in all kinds of subsectors of agriculture and horticulture.

To identify the long-term effects of irrigating with alternative water sources, Inagro has been conducting irrigation trials in potatoes, cauliflower, and spinach since 2019. “Aside from the availability of sufficient irrigation water, water quality is often a tricky issue,” clarifies researcher Tim De Cuypere. “In the irrigation trials, we irrigate crops under controlled conditions with treated wastewater. We examine the effects of sprinkling with alternative water sources on crop yield, crop quality, and the soil.”

“Protect yourself against climate change”
“Water availability is related to possible additional yields or reduced yield losses,” Dries stresses. “Nobody sprinkles just for fun. The purpose of sprinkling is to achieve expected yields. That costs money, but otherwise it will result in heavy yield losses.” Farmer, better protect themselves from the unpredictable weather conditions. Farmer Bart agrees.

“The biggest fear is that the climate becomes more extreme. The idea used to be that you help nature a little by watering crops. Today, certain crops have to be irrigated throughout the season. We worry about that,” Bart says. Thinking about water availability seems more important today than ever.

Listen to the podcast at Inagro here (in Dutch).

Source: Inagro

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