Water use efficiency ( WUE ) is defined as the amount of carbon assimilated as biomass or grain produced per unit of water used by the crop. Climate change will affect plant growth, but we have opportunities to enhance WUE through crop selection and cultural practices to offset the impact of a changing climate.
Any increase in water efficiency will help farmers improve their economic and environmental sustainability. This is particularly important in relation to any future challenges faced by water scarcity and water security, especially when it comes to the warmer, drier summers we have been experiencing in recent years.
According to the FAO, there are many ways farmers can look to increase water efficiency. Here are just a few of their recommendations:
- Reduce direct evaporation during irrigation by avoiding midday sprinkling. Minimize foliar interception by irrigating under-canopy rather than overhead sprinkling.
- Reduce evaporation from bare soil by mulching and by keeping the inter-row strips dry
- Reduce transpiration by weeds, keeping the inter-row strips dry and applying weed control measures where needed.
- Select crops most suitable and marketable for the region.
- Use optimal timing for plant and harvest.
- Use optimal tillage and voice excessive cultivation.
- Avoid progressive salinization by monitoring water table elevation.
- Irrigate at high frequency and in the exact amounts needed to prevent water deficits, taking account of weather conditions and crop growth stages.
- Practice soil conservation for long-term sustainability.
Which of these recommendations will you be trying?