How to do Water Management in Organic Agriculture
Agriculture depends on various factors for a successful yield. Crop quality, soil quality, weather conditions and water are the utmost needs of a successful agricultural yield. Water is one of the most important constituents for the agricultural sector. If properly managed, it can substantially improve the final output of the crop production but if it is mismanaged or used in excess, then it would prove to be harmful not only to the crops but also to the environment.
Throughout the world, we are facing an acute shortage of potable water. It is because of the lack of proper knowledge on the effective management of water, that we have been in this current situation of water shortage. In this article, we will learn the effective water management systems to be employed in organic farming to reach our desired goals for a sustainable living.
Irrigated area accounts for nearly 48.8 per cent of the 140 million hectare of agricultural land in India. The remaining 51.2 per cent falls under rainfed areas. There is a significant difference between the yields that are supplied water through rainfall or by different artificial means.
The mean productivity of rainfed area is 71.62 hectare (i.e about 1.1 tonne per ha as compared to 2.8 tonne per hectare of irrigated land). The country receives an annual precipitation of around 4000 billion cubic metre (BCM), which results in average water potential of 1869 BCM.
To reduce consumption of water and maximize agricultural productivity, the government of India is trying to introduce several different innovations throughout the country.
Rainfall is the cheapest source of irrigation for the crop, but it is very unevenly distributed. In some areas of the country there is an excessive amount of rainfall which not only proves catastrophic to the growth of the crops but also is dangerous to the human lives causing massive floods and in some areas the rainfall is so less that without the use of artificial means of irrigation, the cultivation of crops is impossible.
Water is one of the most important constituents for the growth of essential crops. It has a significant influence on the photosynthesis, respiration, absorption, translocation and utilization of the universal nutrients and cell division besides some other processes. Since the dawn of human civilization, human beings have been continuously innovating new productive and efficient methods of water supply to meet the rising demands of the global population that is increasing with each coming year. The global population is estimated to be around 7.8 billion in the near future.
With India alone accommodating such a huge population in hand which is scheduled to overtake China as the most populous country on earth, it becomes crucial for the agro-economic sector to possess water management efficiently.
Sources of Artificial Irrigation in Organic farms
The artificial irrigation system of organic farming tends to be different from the conventional irrigation system used in regular large sized farms. It consists of a variety of systems, incorporated in such a way as to complement the objectives of organic farming.
- Drip Irrigation System
In drip irrigation, which is sometimes known as ‘trickle irrigation’ involves dripping of water into the soil at a very slow rate (2-20 litres/hour) from a system of small diameter plastic pipes fitted with outlets called emitters or drippers.
Water is supplied close to the plants so that only part of the soil where the root grows is wetted. This method of irrigation is very beneficial for reducing the amount of water that is wasted.
- Surface Method
Surface irrigation is one of the oldest and the most extensively used irrigation methods used all over the world. In this particular method of irrigation, water is distributed over the soil surface by the help of gravity. It is normally used when the conditions are favorable with medium to low infiltration rate. For the proper implementation of the surface system, it takes into account the soil type, slope and levelness of the field.
- Center-pivot System
This kind of irrigation system requires a pump, where the water flows from the series of sprinklers located on towers with wheels. This type of irrigation is common on flat and large farms.
- Manual Irrigation
Manual irrigation is a labor-intensive task in which crops are supplied with adequate water supply through the employment of human labor. This method is the least productive of all methods of irrigation that can only be used in a small farm.
Need for an efficient Water Management System
A growing population brings with itself a high number of problems including a rise in demand for food. With the growing demands in agricultural produce over the recent years, it has become all the way more necessary to have an efficient water management system. As more water is needed for agriculture to fulfil the growing demands of food, there is an urgent need of an efficient water management system so that we could do more without any wastage of water.
Using more than the required amount of water could do more harm to the soil and the crops than good, also using less than required amount of water would not yield much. Therefore, an efficient water management system needs to be employed in the fields which not only ensures a greater yield, but also helps to maintain the soil fertility by providing the right amount of water at regular intervals.
How to do Efficient Water Management in organic farming?
Balancing and supplying the required amount of water during the periods of water scarcity and excess of water is critical for the cultivation of crops. What are the steps for efficient water management so that we could maximize the food production output, using the full potential of organic farming?
Let us find out in the steps provided below:
- Having a basic knowledge about the effects of soil type
Effective soil management begins with the knowledge of the soil. The texture of soil is based on the proportions of sand, silt and clay particles in the soil (sand is approximately 0.02 mm in diameter, slit approximately 0.002 mm in diameter and clay is less than 0.002 mm in diameter). Texture and other inherent soil properties significantly influence a soil’s capacity to absorb rainfall. In most soils, water infiltration and drainage can be improved significantly by building soil organic matter (SOM), biological activity, and overall soil health.
In order to hold a sufficient network of large pore spaces open to the surface and allow roots to penetrate throughout the soil profile, SOM plays a vital role in the ability to absorb and hold water. It is made up of plant and animal matter present in soil.
- Conservation of Moisture: Mulching, weed control and irrigation management
Keeping the soil covered with surface residues or organic mulch reduces evaporative losses of moisture from the soil. Mulching can also help reduce weed competition against the crop. Efficient use of irrigation is essential in low rainfall regions. Some of the methods of conserving soil moisture are optimization of irrigation efficiency, maintaining soil coverage with soil residues or mulch to reduce evaporative losses.
- Tillage practices and water management
Tillage is a method of agricultural preparation of the soil by the use of machines or manual labor, such as digging, stirring and overturning. The less the soil surface is disturbed over an area, the more macro pores remain open to the surface to allow rainfall and irrigation water. Tillage practices like contour tillage and ridge tillage can increase the capacity of soil to hold more quantities of water.
- Conservation practices to prevent soil runoff and erosion
One of the major causes of soil erosion is the excessive water runoff from farmland. It can be prevented to some extent with the use of some practices. For example: cover crop roots, recover leached nutrients, thereby protecting water quantity and enhancing fertility for the crop. Soil covered in plant residue can stop water from runoff and erosion. Filter strips and grassed waterways act in slowing down water and allowing sediments and pollutants to get trapped.
Some other ways to Manage Water system in Organic Farms
Organic Farmers mainly focus on using the resources which can be handy on their farms or which can be naturally received on their farms. They focus on Retention, Harvesting, and Storing of Water resources.
Water Retention is performed by:
- Maintenance of Soil moisture
- Minimizing Evaporation
- Use of Seasonal Rainfall in a better way
Water Harvesting is done by:
- Increasing Infiltration
- Planting pits
- Contour bunds & Catchment strips
- Road Catchments
- Half-Moon microcatchment
- Storing of Water – Drip Irrigation
Through the above process, we learn about the various measures on how to do effective water management in organic farming to accomplish our desired goals. If employed, these methods could turn out to be extremely useful in terms of sustainable agriculture. With the world facing a shortage in potable water, it becomes a crucial responsibility for the world citizens and the governments to address this problem of water shortage and take necessary steps so that in the coming years, we move towards a more sustainable form of living.
Many governments and NGOs are working together in rural as well as urban areas to promote rainwater harvesting. Water, as the most important resource for living beings, must be at all cost protected and used judiciously not just for the needs of this generation, but also for the future generations to come.