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Managing Water in Rainfed Agriculture: How to Improve It (Essay Sample)



Managing Water in Rainfed Agriculture
The huge difference in the topography, relief, soils and anthropogenic changes makes rainfed agriculture a very unreliable source of water. Due to this unreliability, rainfed agriculture remains a risky, low input practice. Low investment leads to old agricultural practices which cause loss of water due to runoff and water loss due to fragmentation CITATION ARa04 \l 1033 (Rashid, Hussain and Khan). This leads to low yields every time water is insufficient. In addition, poor management of the soils can lead to low production even with adequate supply of water, since the water may be unable to penetrate into the soil, and high rates of evaporation.
To minimize the risk on rainfed agriculture, there are ways in which one can manage the water to ensure continuous supply throughout the year. Rainfall water management calls for a new era of management of water focused on the water input and runoffCITATION Mol07 \l 1033 (Molden.). Effective rainwater harvesting, land consolidation, better soil and water conservation, use of good quality seed, balanced nutrient management, and weed control are some of the ways that can bring about a solution to the issues in rainfed agriculture CITATION ARa04 \l 1033 (Rashid, Hussain and Khan). Thus, this essay is focused on studying the developments in the rainfed water systems that solve the aforementioned issues in rainwater farming and prove that they actually help in improving rainfed systems.
The first development in rainfed agriculture is ensuring that water is conserved by use of better water harvesting techniques in the field. Two most important techniques in this section are the in situ and catchment based water harvesting. In situ water harvesting ensures that as much water as possible is conserved in areas where it falls. Catchment based water harvesting now ensures that water that is in excess of the in situ system is conserved. For water catchment, methods used are contour furrows, terracing and run off recycling. Thus, the water level is held up enough for a sufficient amount of time. In a study carried out in Pakistan, each millimeter of saved water could increase yield of wheat by an average of about 10 kg ha‒ 1 CITATION MBB05 \l 1033 (Baig, Zia and Sombathova). A study in the United States also proves that this method can also be very useful in semiarid areas CITATION Sci74 \l 1033 (Sciences). In another example, by proper rainfed water management, a dairy farmer in Britain can save up 1 to 2 pounds per cubic meter usedCITATION Jam \l 1033 (James).
Conservation agriculture is also a huge step in water management. This method includes and is not limited to minimum tillage, no till, direct drill, mulch tillage, stubble mulch, trash farming and strip tillage. All these methods help to reduce soil erosion. Deep tillage can also be useful in increasing porosity of soil and breaking the compact cemented layer of soil and thus reducing permeability of soil. Thus these practices ensure that the soil is in a condition where it can hold water for a longer amount of time to ensure maximum absorption by the crops. For instance, use of wheat straw in Pakistan as a mulch was proven to increase soil water retention capacity by 45 per cent and pore volume by about 7.5 per cent CITATION GVo88 \l 1033 (G.Voss). Also, extensive study in Europe has proven that conservation agriculture has helped cope with the major issues in soil degradation due to soil and wind erosion CITATION Old91 \l 1033 (Oldeman, Hakkeling and Sombroek).
However, developments in rainfed agriculture have been proven to have many setbacks despite their advantages. Improper tillage, for example, leads to development of a hard pan under the ploughed layer. This leads to minimum water absorption and adsorption into the soil and is seen to inhibit root growth in crops according to surveys carried out in America CITATION Ham84 \l 1033 (Hamblin). In addition to this, in situ and end catchment methods may prove disastrous in the case that increasing water capacity in the soil might bring about habitation of pests in the soil. This may lead to even more losses than initially experienced when using the traditional system. Dams and dug well also inhibit silt deposition in lands of lower altitudes which leads to poor productivity of ...
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