Knowledge for better food systems

Showing results for: Irrigation

Image: iUNU, Luna Rail Network, Luna Press Kit
26 June 2018

The Spoon interviewed the founder of iUNU, a company that makes a robotic system to monitor and manage commercial greenhouses. The system, known as Luna, uses cameras that are mounted on rails to observe the plants, and uses machine learning to interpret what it sees and help growers manage yields.

Image: Sumita Roy Dutta, Ice stupas near Phyang monastery, Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International
11 June 2018

A project in Ladakh, India, creates “ice stupas”, a form of artificial glacier, to complement intermittent water flow from retreating natural glaciers. Water from streams is sprayed from vertical pipes during the winter, freezing into pointed mounds, which melt slowly throughout the year, irrigating crops in the summer.

Image: Rik Schuiling, Agricultural scientist taking notes at research station in Saria (Burkina Faso), Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International
11 June 2018

This paper examines the role that agricultural research and innovation has in changing the food systems of developing regions, including urbanisation, decline in the importance of cereals in the diet, rise in processed foods, and shift in types of grains produced. Ways in which research affects the food system include: new breeds and varieties that are suited to small farms and/or ease of processing; cheaper inputs such as irrigation, fertilisers, herbicides and tractors; and introduction of motorised transport and temperature controlled storage. The authors call for more investment in the post-farm stages of the food system, such as processing, logistics, and wholesale, because these stages add significant value to food products.

Image: Raffa be, Seawater Greenhouse in Tenerife two years after being installed, Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported
24 April 2018

Wired explores the Seawater Greenhouse, which uses solar power to desalinate seawater for irrigating greenhouses, and inventor Charlie Paton’s quest to bring the technology to regions suffering drought and food insecurity.

Image: ILRI, Groundnut farmer in Malawi, Flickr, Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic
23 April 2018

This article looks at our ability to increase cropping intensity in order to meet future food needs and avoid expanding cropped land area. The research produces spatially explicit information on the cropping intensity gap, i.e. the difference between actual and potential cropping intensity and finds that increasing cropping intensity could compensate for land lost to urbanisation.

Photo: USDA NRCS, Flickr, Creative Commons License 2.0
21 January 2018

This article examines global overuse of freshwater resources and how more sustainable irrigation practices could impact other environmental and developmental targets in the SDGs. It finds that the main likely effects are 1) increased food prices due to lower productivity and/or production costs as water prices increase, and 2) cropland expansion and associated extra GHG emissions of 0.87 gigatonnes of carbon.

12 December 2017

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) has released a worldwide map that details croplands in high resolution in an ongoing effort to monitor croplands and water use.

Photo credit: Neil Palmer, CIAT, Flickr, Creative Commons License 2.0
29 November 2016

This study models the water demand of land acquisitions in Africa as a function of crop choice, local climate, and irrigation scenarios. Its authors distinguish between green and blue water, equating to water from rainfall and that provided to crops by irrigation respectively. 

Photo credit: U.S Department of Agriculture (Flickr, creative commons)
10 March 2016

In this paper by researchers from Germany, Kenya, Australia and Sweden, a modeling approach is taken to ascertain the efficacy of applying improved water management techniques on a large scale to increase yields to help meet global demand for food.

3 December 2014

This study aims to assess the effect of five dietary scenarios – designed to promote healthier and more sustainable eating – on the blue water scarcity footprint of UK food consumption. The objectives are to estimate the total blue water consumed in producing food commodities consumed in the UK; the contribution, and geographical concentration, to global blue water scarcity; and the potential impact of alternative healthy eating scenarios on global blue water scarcity.

5 September 2014

This paper published in PNAS - Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America - looks at the environmental costs of food production and in particular livestock based food production.  The paper is based on annual 2000–2010 data for land, irrigation water, and fertilizer from the USDA, the Department of the Interior, and the Department of Energy.

22 July 2014

This study looks at the double challenge of increasing food security while addressing environmental problems caused by agriculture. It identifies a set of key actions in three broad areas that hold the greatest potential for achieving these efficiency and sustainability goals.

21 November 2013

This IFPRI (International Food Policy Research Institute) policy note summarises the results of a study that compares the effects that different technologies have on crop yields and resource use, in particular arable land, water and nutrient inputs. It models technology-induced changes in crop yields and considers how the mix of technology uptake can influence the global food market through changes in food prices and trade flows, as well as calorie availability, in particular for developing countries.