Islamabad, Pakistan (BBN) – The growth of population and the economy are putting ever more pressure on the use of water in agriculture in general and in cotton cultivation in particular.
This issue was discussed by a panel of researchers and scientists during the Third Open Session of the 75th Plenary Meeting of the International Cotton Advisory Committee (ICAC), entitled “Reducing the Water Footprint of Cotton,” on Wednesday.
Globally, 71 per cent of water withdrawals are used in agriculture, while in Pakistan (where cotton is the predominant crop) this figure reaches 94 per cent, so this is a pressing issue.
Dr. S. Hassan Ahmed, of Sudan, presented various methods to reduce water usage in irrigated conditions: performance of a critical assessment of performance of the irrigation system; implantation of new irrigation systems; reduction of conveyance losses; implementation of precision agriculture (water management); use of deficit irrigation; optimization of irrigation through irrigation scheduling models; use of in-situ rain water harvesting and conservation tillage techniques; maximization of yield per unit water used (optimum agronomic practices); breeding for high-yielding drought-resistant varieties; and genetic engineering.
Arif Makhdum, of the WWF, Pakistan, presented information on the Sustainable Agriculture Program, which is 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 per cent irrigated and surface or ground water is estimated to account for 56 per cent of the total water footprint.
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, according to an ICAC statement.
These programs resulted in a 25 per cent reduction in water usage, a 31 per cent reduction in pesticide use, 27 per cent less synthetic fertilizer use and an increase in net profit of 24 per cent, it added.