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ARS Home » Plains Area » Bushland, Texas » Conservation and Production Research Laboratory » Soil and Water Management Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #358843

Research Project: Precipitation and Irrigation Management to Optimize Profits from Crop Production

Location: Soil and Water Management Research

Title: The importance of precision water management for sustainability

item Evett, Steven - Steve

Submitted to: CSA News
Publication Type: Trade Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 10/25/2018
Publication Date: 11/1/2018
Citation: Evett, S.R. 2018. The importance of precision water management for sustainability. CSA News. 63(11):37.

Interpretive Summary: The American Society of Agronomy (ASA) is a scientific and technical society with members from every state in the US, and from many other countries. Many members are scientists and engineers involved in research and development of improved agronomic methods that reduce waste and cost, make more efficient use of agricultural inputs, defeat pests and diseases, improve harvesting methods, improve water quality and increase farm and range profitability. In addition to more than 8,000 scientists and engineers employed by federal, state and private industry, the society includes >13 thousand crop advisors and farm managers who put into practice the engineering and scientific advances and feed back to the scientific community the relative success or need for improvement of new methods, products and approaches. The Society and its membership play strong roles in promoting all five key indicators of rural prosperity listed by the Presidential Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity, but particularly the last two: Harnessing Technological Innovation, and Economic Development. All agronomists are involved in some aspect of water management because water is key to food production. Water and food security challenges are global, impacting not only the US but our trading and security partners, for water security is at the root of sustainable food production.

Technical Abstract: Water and food security challenges are global, impacting not only the US but our trading and security partners, for water is at the root of sustainable food production. Water security involves both scarcity of water resources and too much water in the wrong place. In the US, there has been a steady increase in irrigated area in watersheds most prone to nutrient outflows and surface and subsurface drainage systems are ubiquitous to these vulnerable areas. To achieve both water and food security we need to increase crop production, while simultaneously reducing water, carbon, and energy footprints. As evidenced during the ASA Sustainable Agronomy Conference in July 2018, sustainable agricultural systems must be developed that will do more with less. This can be accomplished with strategies that combine landscape features and resources with agricultural systems appropriately in space and time following a precision approach. These concepts were evident in two recent meetings, one in India, the “Global Water Security Conference, and the other in Jordan in the water scarce Middle East, the Sustainable High Value Crop Production Workshop. Precision agriculture plays an important role in achieving sustainability. Sustainable high value crop production in arid areas like Gaza, the West Bank, Israel and Jordan, is focused on deriving sustainable farmer profitability through high value crops that maximize economic return per unit of water consumed. The virtual water trading that results from export sales of fruits and vegetables into wintertime markets in Europe and countries in the region allows import of much lower cost grains that embody a much larger volume of water through their production in regions with more plentiful water resources. The same dynamic plays out in many parts of the US. Key components of the nexus of Water Security, Precision Agriculture & Sustainability include high value crops, virtual water trades, precision irrigation practice and local manufacturing to support it, and farmer profit and reinvestment in precision irrigation and agriculture practices. The task to achieve a sustainable agriculture can seem overwhelming, but it is important to realize that each small decision makes a difference and contributes to advancing the entire system – for sustainability requires a systems approach, and the parts of the system can be made mutually reinforcing.