Water use efficiency refers to the ability to maximize crop productivity while minimizing water consumption. Inefficient water management practices in agriculture result in water wastage, reduced crop yields, and environmental degradation. Therefore, it is essential to address the problems associated with water use in agriculture and implement strategies to improve efficiency. By adopting innovative irrigation techniques, implementing water-saving practices, promoting sustainable farming methods, and leveraging technology and research, we can enhance WUE in agriculture, ensuring sustainable food production and responsible water resource management.
How is water-use efficiency calculated?
Water-use efficiency (WUE) is a measure of how effectively plants utilize water to produce biomass or yield. It quantifies the amount of biomass or yield produced per unit of water consumed. WUE is commonly expressed as the ratio between the amount of biomass or yield produced and the amount of water used during the crop’s growth period.
To calculate water-use efficiency, the following formula can be used:
WUE = Biomass or Yield / Water Consumed
What is water-use efficiency in crop plants?
Water-use efficiency in crop plants refers specifically to the efficiency with which crops convert water into biomass or yield. Different crops have varying levels of WUE due to their genetic characteristics, physiological traits, and adaptation to different growing conditions. Some crops, such as certain drought-tolerant varieties, have evolved mechanisms to optimize water-use efficiency by reducing water loss through transpiration or by adjusting their growth and development in response to water availability.
Problems in Water Use Efficiency
- Our farmers may not know the importance of water and how much water is needed. Even today, many farmers irrigate their crops using the same methods as their ancestors. This is causing a lot of waste.
- In some areas, the infrastructure is still not good, and many irrigation canals and ditches are still dirty, causing a lot of water wastage.
- In some areas, there is a shortage of water because there are many other sectors, apart from agriculture, that farmers cannot achieve water use efficiency.
- In some areas, farmers do not have modern technologies that they cannot optimize water use efficiency, for example, drip irrigation systems, sprinkler irrigation systems zero tillage practices etc.
- There are issues of water quality in many places, where the water is very salty, which reduces production especially, and the land there will not be able to cultivate crops after a few years. Now how can the people there increase water efficiency?
- We do not focus on WUE and neither do any other projects on it nor do any research on it due to which a lot of water is being used.
- Climate change is also disrupting water use efficiency. Sometimes there is more rain and some years there is less rain than expected, which makes it difficult for farmers to manage and they are not able to water as properly as they should.
- In some areas, there are fragmented ownerships that control the amount of water to be given to people for their crops, so that farmers cannot meet the water use efficiency of their crops at will
- There is no check and balance for the government which collects the data of the crop, so neither the government knows which crop was planted here and how much water it needed.
- One of the reasons why water use efficiency is not increasing is because most of the farmers do not adopt modern technology quickly and they apply water to the crops in old ways. There is wastage of water, whereas in modern irrigation systems like drip irrigation systems, in which water is irrigated to specific amounts of crops, the chance of water wastage is very less or non-existent.
Strategies to improve Water use efficiency in agriculture
- To increase production, which has a direct relationship with water use efficiency, we have to optimize the use of fertilizers. As you know water use efficiency has a direct relationship with yield, while there is an inverse relationship with evapotranspiration rate, that is, we need to increase water use efficiency. Two things have to be done either we increase the yield or we have to decrease the evapotranspiration rate. In the following, we will focus on only two things: how to increase production and how to decrease the evaporation rate
WUE calculation formula (Water use efficiency =yield/evapotranspiration)
- Water use efficiency has a direct relationship with crop production and an inverse relationship with evapotranspiration.
- The more efficiently we apply water, the more production will come and the second is that the wastage of water will also be reduced
- After that comes the stage of land preparation where the land is properly level and the land preparation varies from crop to crop. This is done to increase the water use efficiency.
- Variety selection should be done according to the area so that the effect of climate change on it is minimal, which can increase water use efficiency.
- Since water use efficiency has a direct relationship with yield, it means that we are increasing the yield by adjusting crops at their proper time of sowing and harvest.
- Weeds should be eradicated from crops because they compete with crops like moisture, light, space etc.
- In order to increase the yield, you have to control the pest in a timely manner, if not, the crop production will decrease the drip irrigation system, water can be saved from being wasted, it does not allow water to evaporate and secondly, we can irrigate more crops with less water. With the drip irrigation system, the water reaches the roots of the plant directly.
- Farmers in areas that are already water-scarce should try to grow crops that require less water and that are able to withstand a period of drought.
- If you want to minimize the use of water, then you should practice minimal tillage because if you plough more, the soil will become finer and the pore spaces will increase, which will increase the infiltration and percolation rate of water.
- Mix some things on the ground so that the ground can hold the water properly like compost, waste organic matter etc. so that the wastage of water is reduced.
- Sensors should be placed on the ground that tell the moisture level of the ground, how much moisture is in it when we should water the crop and how much to water it so that the wastage of water is minimized.
- There are two things in water management, one is irrigation and the other is drainage. Drainage is more important than irrigation
- Now we will talk about evapotranspiration. Transpiration is necessary for the plant because it helps uptake nutrients, but evaporation can be reduced if we apply physical barrier soil. There are many types of mulching. One is to maintain the temperature of the soil and the other is to prevent the growth of weeds.
- Timely weeds have to be controlled to reduce the rate of evapotranspiration
The government should educate its farmers and at the same time equip them with modern technology and in order to make the farmers aware of the scarcity of water and its absolute need, the government should conduct an awareness campaign so that the wastage of water is minimized. Less and more benefit can be gained from it.
If the government can meet the water needs of agriculture, many areas where water is scarce or non-existent can produce a good crop. This can only happen if we use water. Will highlight the importance of use efficiency
7th semester, Department of Agronomy, University of Agriculture Faisalabad