Science News 30/12/2015

Optimize water usage and improve irrigation

70% of the world’s water is used for agriculture and food production. Irrigated agriculture accounts for 20% of the total cultivated land but contributes 40% of the total food produced worldwide

Water management can help the agriculture industry to maximise this precious resource.

For the food industry, water management starts in the fields with the irrigation of crops and continues, through several steps, to factories where the food is finally packed, processed and dispatched to retailers and consumers.

Water management helps farmers, agronomists and investors understand, in terms of irrigation:

• What to do
• When to do it
• How to implement continuous monitoring

Optimising water usage and improving irrigation on farmland helps to save money, increase yields and protect the environment at the same time as making farming more sustainable. From development of a baseline and pre-operational phase, to supplying detailed information on irrigation scheduling and/or precision irrigation, a range of services has been devised to help.

•Water in Soil Storage Capacity Mapping

Understanding soil storage capacity and water dosing means increased accuracy and improved crop yields.

•Infiltration Speed

Avoid puddles and water erosion by identifying the optimum irrigation time and calculate water storage capacity.

•Moisture Retention Curve

Carried out in a laboratory, with different retention values (from 0 to 15 atmospheres), determining the moisture retention curve recognises the amount of water soil can store within its suction boundaries.

•Irrigation Schedule

Avoid excessive irrigation costs by devising an irrigation schedule, in quantity (m3/ha) and frequency (hours/days).

•Irrigation System Audit

Identify areas for improvement, determine if the fertiliser applied and the water programmed is distributed homogeneously.

Water Along the Food Supply Chain
Water management for the food industry starts in the fields, with the irrigation of the crops and continues through the supply chain, and into the factories where the food is packed, processed and dispatched to retailers and consumers. In additon, to water management in the field, water quality is key. Only water which meets the physical, chemical and bacteriological requirements for human drinking water can be used in food production.

In many countries, drinking water and thus water for food production is regulated by the national Ministry of Health, or equivalent. These regulations typically include criteria for health monitoring, quality control, sampling points, and analytical tests, as well as the maximum permissible limits for microbiological and parasitological, organoleptic quality, chemicals and radioactive parameters.

Water Quality Defined
As a general rule, water for food production (in packing facilities, factories and others) must meet the same criteria as drinking water. At an international level, the Codex General Principles of Food Hygiene (CAC/RCP 1-1969 rev 2003) states that drinking water shall be as specified in the latest edition Guidelines for Drinking Water Quality, WHO, or be of superior quality. These WHO guidelines for drinking water quality have been used by countries worldwide as the basis for the development of regulations and standards aimed at ensuring the safety of drinking water.

di S. C.