Holger Weckwert

How to Tackle the Global Water Scarcity Problem

 

Water is synonymous with life – it is an essential nutrient and forms the basis for commercial agriculture. But scientists have estimated that by 2030 the gap between the demand for water and the existing supply could be as high as 40 percent, a harrowing proposition for the world’s population. Will we soon run out of water?

Holger Weckwert

Holger Weckwert

Global Segment Manager Fruits & Vegetables and Insecticides, Bayer Division Crop Science

Isn’t the Earth composed of mostly water? True, the surface of our blue planet is 75 percent water, but only two percent of that resource is fresh water – and an astonishing 70 percent of our fresh water supply is used to support agricultural production. That type of discrepancy definitively points to an imbalance, an unsustainable system. These facts demand new solutions and innovations to remedy a seemingly insurmountable challenge.

Does a viable solution to water scarcity exist? I believe it does.

The logical starting point to addressing the problem is at the source: the agricultural production methods that account for most of the world’s fresh water usage. Historically, growers, farmers and producers have relied upon flooding to irrigate their valuable crops and land. Flooding has a water-use efficiency of less than 40 percent, underscoring how ineffective the practice is in relation to water consumption.

Water-use Reduction is the Target

The world needs a smarter way to safeguard its water supply. Drip irrigation provides water-use efficiency of more than 95 percent. That translates to a water-use reduction of more than 60 percent compared to traditional flooding methods. It is also a more effective water management solution than sprinkler systems, which literally do not get to the root of the issue like a drip system does.

But today’s producers face many pressures beyond dramatic climate shifts. They need to grow and deliver produce that is safe for end consumers, free from pests and disease, with zero chemical residues. Crops need to support a growing and more demanding population with higher expectations, levels of sophistication and knowledge of food sources and production methods than previous generations. As populations grow, producers must find new ways to derive more from the same plot areas while reducing their overall water use. Growers not only face legal action if they fail to deliver crops in accordance with tighter regulations, but also need to manage the demands of a diverse food chain with different crop requirements. To address this intricate and challenging issue, Bayer has introduced DripByDrip, a sustainable system that combines drip technology and crop protection expertise to advance today’s farming practices.

In keeping with Bayer’s commitment to Science for a better life, providing not just products but solutions, I want to help farmers produce crops in a more sustainable way. Partnering with drip and micro-irrigation pioneer Netafim, Bayer is connecting the dots and delivering a holistic DripByDrip irrigation solution, and I’m excited to be part of it.

Drip irrigation can efficiently deliver water to large fields even in periods of drought.

Drip Irrigation is the Solution

With drip irrigation, lines are placed directly in or on the ground. This enables precise application of both water and, for instance, fertilizer/micro-nutrients and crop protection products to allow for direct uptake by the plants without waste. For example: soil humidity sensors provide exact information about how much water is needed at a specific point in a plant’s life cycle, automating the water application process. The same technology can also be used for applying plant protection chemicals in conjunction with weather forecasting and modeling of pest and disease occurrence.

Drip irrigation delivers water at the precise moment when it is needed, directly to the target, and this is also our new approach for applying Bayer’s proven crop protection solutions. Automating that process minimizes the workload for producers while creating an efficient balance of low use and high yields that translates to economic savings.

The tide may be turning, but we’re rising to the challenge!