ISLAMABAD, Nov 3 (Pakistan Point News - APP - 03rd Nov, 2016 ) : Highlighting the importance of reducing dependence on water for crop production, the agriculture experts here Thursday introduced various methods to reduce water usage in different conditions. They were speaking at an open Session of the 75th Plenary Meeting of the International Cotton Advisory Committee (ICAC), entitled "Reducing the Water Footprint of Cotton." Globally, 71% of water withdrawals are used in agriculture, while in Pakistan (where cotton is the predominant crop) this figure reaches 94%, so this is a pressing issue, they said.
An expert from Sudan, Dr. S. Hassan Ahmed, informed the participants about various techniques to reduce water usage, saying that implantation of new irrigation systems; reduction of conveyance losses; implementation of precision agriculture (water management) and use of deficit irrigation would help minimize water usage. He also highlighted the importance of optimization of irrigation through irrigation scheduling models; use of in-situ rain water harvesting and conservation tillage techniques.
He was of the view that breeding for high-yielding drought- resistant varieties; and genetic engineering would also help reduce water usages. He emphasized that free or nominal water prices do not encourage efficient water use and that water should be priced according to volume (quantity) applied and not area. On the occasion, an another expert from the World Wildlife Fund, Arif Makhdum, said Sustainable Agriculture Program was being implemented in Pakistan's seven regions, with 92,350 farmers engaged in five projects in an area of 355,600 hectares.
In Pakistan, cotton is 100% irrigated and surface or ground water is estimated to account for 56% of the total water footprint. He said the water footprint assessment helped in identifying potential and important cotton production zones and indicating ways to increase water use efficiency, while reducing contaminants in water caused by fertilizer/pesticide applications. These programs resulted in a 25% reduction in water usage, a 31% reduction in pesticide use, 27% less synthetic fertilizer use and an increase in net profit of 24%, he added.
Danilar Andakulov, of Helvetas, Kyrgyzstan, informed the participants about the implementation of six projects in four countries (India, Pakistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan) in rice and cotton. Technologies promoted in project countries include using short furrows,irrigating every second furrow, alternating furrow irrigation, laser leveling of furrows, and soil humidity measurement. Improved methods of irrigation have resulted in 33% less of water use and 35% better yield compared with traditional methods. Innovative methods of irrigation led to substantially higher income per hectare of production.