This is a guest post written by freelance writer Maria Reyes.
Water supply is perhaps one of the most crucial elements in ensuring a successful harvest. To help guarantee the maximum growth of the plants while conserving this precious resource, it’s imperative to deliver just the right amount of water to crops at the right schedule. The good news is that there are a lot of time-tested practices as well as plant water stress and irrigation monitoring technologies that can help achieve this goal.
However, in extreme instances when there is drought or if a grower is faced with challenges in water supply due to geographical conditions or location, extra measures need to be taken in order for crops to survive on little water. Here are some of the innovative and resourceful ways by which farmers can get by during periods of drought or difficult access to water:
1, Drip irrigation
This method of watering crops is sometimes known as trickle irrigation or micro irrigation. As the name implies, it is an irrigation system that allows water to drop slowly near the plant roots, where moisture is much needed. This is as opposed to the usual practice of watering the entire farmland or crop field. Farmers are able to save as much as three quarters of water with drip irrigation compared to traditional irrigation methods, that is why it is a technique that is frequently used today especially among growers in perennially dry or difficult climates.
2. Drought-tolerant crops
Choosing to plant drought-tolerant crops is another way for farmers to make do with the water conditions that they are faced with. For instance, there is a popular variety of corn widely used in the US these days that is specifically engineered to survive drought or minimal water conditions. There are also certain types of plants that are naturally adaptable to drought. In African nations such as Kenya, for example, where it is perennially hot and dry, the government along with food experts have been guiding food growers to shift to sorghum, millets, pigeonpea, cowpea, and green gram as grain staples instead of corn.
3. Cover crops
Cover crops are other species or types of plants that can be grown in fields between harvest seasons. These are usually grains or types of grasses, which can be introduced during the off-season of the traditional cash crop such as corn, rice, or other grains. The benefit of cover crops is that they help enhance soil health and keep it viable for the cash crops. They also help prevent soil erosion and keep the soil rich with organic matter. Most importantly, cover crops help retain moisture in the soil. Some farmers plant radishes, for instance, in between harvest to keep the moisture level in the field high.
4. Laser leveling
A technology-based practice that is gaining ground among many farmers is the use of lasers to level their fields better. Farmers make sure that their land is more uniformly flat so that water or moisture — no matter how scarce — can spread more evenly and efficiently. A well-leveled field through the use of laser technology also prevents erosion, water run-off, and water puddling. Laser leveling is a good way to make sure that water is evenly distributed once the crops are planted.
5. Conservation tillage
This is a practice wherein farmers plant their crops while deliberately leaving behind the residue from the previous season’s harvest. Experts claim that water or moisture is better retained in soil if it is left untouched or if it is less frequently tilled or plowed. Conversely, it has been found that the more that the soil is disturbed, the drier it tends to get.
Water: A Precious Resource
Water conservation remains a constant challenge especially in an era of growing food demands from a booming global population, amid an environment where resources are becoming scarcer. However, with the help of more prudent and careful water management practices from farmers and growers, these challenges can be effectively met.