Helping to Secure Crop Yields Globally with Land Drainage

by Tim Sissons of William Morfoot land drainage, experts based in the East of England.

Water drainage on farmland
© William Morfoot

Along with a combination of other factors, agriculture, and therefore food production depend on the proper management of water to enable crops to develop properly and yields to be healthy.

Globally, ecosystems and environments vary greatly and even the most experienced crop producers can see a drop in yields when dealt a particularly nasty deal by Mother Nature.

To provide them with sustainable agricultural development and to help secure their harvest, farmers often rely on land drainage systems to help them cope with a deluge of rain or even a lack of it.

Although it may seem like an odd statement, a sustainable land drainage system is as important in areas of low rainfall as it is in those where rainfall is high. In the first instance a correctly installed land drainage system can help to minimise soil salinisation and in the second it is necessary to prevent the water logging of soils which can lead to a whole host of difficulties.

In 2002, the FAO estimated that salinity had damaged about 20 to 30 million hectares of irrigated land, resulting in loss of crops for a number of those working in the agricultural industry globally – upsetting food security. A build-up of saline happens more regularly on irrigated land due to the addition of salts in irrigation water where natural drainage is insufficient.

Land drainage is also pivotal for securing the quality of soils, as waterlogging prevents crops accessing the vital nutrients needed to grow to their full potential.

So how is land drainage relevant across the world? And how do different ecosystems use land drainage systems to their advantage? Continue reading

Floods in Haiti and India devastate crops

Hurricane Sandy has left fields in the south of Haiti under water, causing crop losses of up to 40%. This follows damage from a drought and the effects of Hurricane Isaac earlier this year.

Meanwhile, 9000 miles away in Andhra Pradesh, India, rice farmers are also suffering with their crops waist-deep in floodwater following several days of rain from Cyclone Nilam.

There are now serious worries in both countries of food shortages and waterborne diseases.

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Puddles of pests: why the weather really matters

Weather – an integral part of
farming ©Paul Dickson

While folklore has worked well for many farmers over the years, watching out for red skies or the wind changing direction isn’t always convenient, and a little more notice of hurricanes and tropical storms is usually appreciated. With recent stories of rain beating down on mangoes in Mexico, hail wreaking havoc on tobacco in Zimbabwe and droughts leaving crops more than a little thirsty in Cameroon, it seemed like good timing for the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) to announce its new development plans. Promising not only accurate predictions, but also free and easy access to more information than ever before, this latest advance is expected to go some way towards improving food security, particularly in developing countries.

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