A cloud-based, micro-irrigation system tested on a farm in India has cut water use by up to 80% and doubled the crop yield, and could relieve the environmental stress that agriculture places on India’s natural resources.
The system, which was developed by scientists at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, combines a highly localized weather forecast with local know-how on irrigation needs and soil conditions and has been trialed as part of the Innovate UK-funded Smart Control of Rural Renewable Energy and Storage (SCORRES) project.
Reducing water consumption and improving irrigation techniques in India is vital: currently, 600 million people are at high risk of surface water supply disruption. Agriculture accounts for 90% of India’s freshwater withdrawal, 18% of total electricity, and 15% of total diesel use. Fifty four percent of India faces extremely high water stress, and farmers are increasingly indebted due to the volatility of crop yields and prices.
At the trial farm in Tamil Nadu, eight vegetable crops have been farmed using the SCORRES precision irrigation system: lady’s fingers, lettuce, basil, basella, pumpkin, corn, rocket, and long beans.
Local farmers’ knowledge on irrigation and soil conditions for each of these crops are scheduled onto the cloud-based system. SCORRES refines the irrigation schedule by using its highly accurate local weather forecast, soil moisture conditions, evaporation modelling and grid outage information to continually adapt the schedule and ensure the crops receive exactly the right volume of water, at the exact time that they need it.