Improving Crop Water Productivity and Food Security under Limited Water Resources

  • 2015/05/04     Dresden, Germany

    2nd Nexus Seminar

    UNU-FLORES and the Faculty of Environmental Sciences at Technische Universtitдt Dresden (TU Dresden) organized the second joint lecture in the Nexus Seminar Series on 20 April 2015. Approximately 80 students, faculty and members of the interested public, came to hear the lecture given by Prof. Dr. Niels Schütze, Professor of Hydrology at TU Dresden.

    Taking a nexus approach to the question of food security, Schütze discussed the topic of Improving Crop Water Productivity and Food Security under Limited Water Resources. He used the second nexus seminar to draw attention to the relationship between water supply managment and food production, along with the implications of both for the surrounding environment and human population.

    As demand on water resources increase due to the agricultural needs of the growing global population, water security is a crucial issue worldwide. In this light, it is necessary to identify solutions for producing food sustainably without increasing the use of water resources. In his work, Schütze has explored possibilities for closing the yield gap, that is, eliminating the difference between observed agricultural yields and the attainable agricultural yield in a given region, by looking at crop water productivity. Suboptimal management of water resources is one reason that agricultural regions do not produce as much as their biophysical conditions would allow. Introducing three case studies, Schütze drew attention to models that analyse past management strategies to help predict future crop water productivity while taking climate variability into consideration. The first example was the virtual water network created by the Romans that used trade to increase the sustainability of water use and food production. The extensive trading network of the Roman Empire raised the stable minimum level of the carrying capacity of the region. The next example was the development of a basic irrigation calendar that analysed rainfall data from Oman, a region with a relatively stable climate. The data in this calendar facilitated the prediction of favourable irrigation timetables for sustainable food production.

    The final example was a regional platform developed by Schütze and a team of scholars at TU Dresden in Saxony, Germany. The Saxonian Platform for Higher Performance Irrigation (SAPHIR) collects climate, crop and soil data from previous years for the development of an irrigation and crop calendar that can then be used to assess the availability and productivity of water. SAPHIR aims to analyse the data in areas with relatively predictable climate and a high demand for irrigation, like Saxony, and identify ideal irrigation strategies at a regional scale. Schütze concluded the seminar by stressing the usefulness of models like SAPHIR when applying a nexus approach. As climate change and the growing global population have many implications for the sustainable production of food, he emphasized that the use of these models can increase water productivity and in turn successfully manage the water resources in the ever-changing global environment.

    The third lecture of the Nexus Seminar Series will take place on 18 May 2015 at UNU-FLORES (Ammonstrasse 74, Dresden World Trade Center). Dr. Kai Schwärzel, Head of the Soil and Land-Use Management Unit at UNU-FLORES, will discuss the Impact of Soil Conservation Measures on the Water Supply in the Dryland of China.

    If you are interested in reading about the upcoming lectures within the Nexus Seminar Series, please click here.