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With the world’s population predicted to reach 9.7 billion by 2050 and around 11 billion by 2100, precision agriculture is seen by some as representing a third agricultural revolution, able to significantly raise the productivity of food production.
Precision agriculture is a farming management concept based on observing, measuring and responding to inter and intra-field variability in crops. Variable rate technology including seeders, sprayers, etc. is used to optimally distribute resources with the aim of optimising returns on inputs while reducing the negative impacts of farming on the environment that come from over-application of chemicals or water.
This meeting comprises two virtual sessions. The first session, on Friday 13 November, will discuss examples of the use of precision methods in irrigation and water resources management. In the second session, on Friday 20 November, talks will be given on the technology used in precision agriculture, the economics of precision water management in the UK and in tropical countries, and technical and social innovations to improve precision agricultural water management in different agricultural systems for smallholders in developing countries.
This event is convened jointly with the Tropical Agriculture Association (TAA).
15.00-15.05 - 5 mins - Introduction and welcome
15.05-15.30 - 25 mins - Prof. Jerry Knox
15.30-15.40 - 10 mins - Q&A Prof. Jerry Knox
15.40-16.05 - 25 mins - Dr Toby Waine
16.05-16.15 - 10 mins - Q&A Dr Toby Waine
16.15-16.40 - 25 mins - Mr Jamie Hannaford
16.40-16.50 - 10 mins - Q&A Mr Jamie Hannaford
16.50-17.00 - 10 mins - General discussion and wind up.
Professor of Agricultural Water Management, Cranfield Water Science Institute, Cranfield University
Jerry joined the academic staff at Cranfield University in 1993. Over the last 27 years he has developed an international reputation in the science, engineering and management of water for agriculture, including assessing the relationships between water resources, drought impacts, agricultural productivity and the environment, and the sustainability of crop production in the context of increasing climate variability.
His research interests are in biophysical and water resource modelling, geospatial modelling and climate impacts and adaptation in agriculture. Much of his current research is directed towards improving irrigation management across a range of high-value field vegetable, horticultural and plantation crops in the UK, Sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America. He has authored over 80 peer reviewed science papers and between 2012-2018 was Associate Editor for Irrigation Science and Editor in Chief for Outlook on Agriculture. He is currently supporting IFAD in their thematic programme evaluation of climate change impacts on smallholder agriculture.
Talk Title: Making water use more efficient (Tim Hess and Jerry Knox)
Water is critical for agriculture and food production with c70% of the world’s freshwater withdrawals used to support agriculture, yet many of the world’s aquifers and rivers are already overexploited. In the UK, agriculture accounts for only a small proportion of water withdrawals, but the food system relies on water resources overseas to produce imported food. For example, 76% of the freshwater consumed in the supply of fresh fruit and vegetables to the UK is withdrawn overseas.
Although global mean rainfall is projected to increase with climate change, projections of future rainfall patterns and temperature increases suggest that reductions in water resources are expected in many food producing regions. At the same time, population growth and increasing demand for healthy food (especially fresh fruit and vegetables) will demand more water for food production. As a consequence, it has been estimated that demand for water will outstrip available supplies by 40% by 2030. The future food system will need to produce more, and healthier food, from less water, that is, the ‘efficiency’ of water use (in terms of food output per unit water input) will need to increase.
This presentation will consider what approaches irrigated agriculture may take to make better use of water resources in producing food whilst also adapting to climate change. These include; selecting, or modifying plants to produce more food from less water; scientific approaches to scheduling water applications to better match supply and demand; and precision application of irrigation to reduce non-productive losses. The potential for reducing energy consumption in irrigation, and hence cost and greenhouse gas emissions, will also be considered.
Senior Lecturer in Applied Remote Sensing, Centre for Environment and Agricultural Informatics, Cranfield University
Dr Toby Waine is a Senior Lecturer in Applied Remote Sensing at Cranfield University. His particular areas of interest are the integration of multi-spectral satellite imagery of different spatial resolutions within the context of crop survey design and crop production estimates. Building on extensive experience of illicit crop monitoring of opium poppy and cannabis in Afghanistan (UK-MOD, UK-FCO and United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime), his recent research focuses on looking at the challenges of food security and commodity markets, including tracking and mapping and monitoring changes in North American wheat.
Talk Title:The role of digital data and remote sensing in precision agriculture
Dr Waine will explore how digital technology is revolutionising agricultural decision making with a particular focus on remote sensing of crops and the use of satellite SAR data for soil moisture measurement. He’ll explore the different ways data from satellites and drones can be used by growers to improve their decisions, and will consider the research challenges in adopting these technologies in the future.
Group Leader, Hydrological Status and Outlooks, UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology
Jamie Hannaford is a principal hydrologist and the leader of the Hydrological Status and Outlooks group at the UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, and a visiting associate professor at the Irish Climate Analysis and Research Units (ICARUS) at Maynooth University, Ireland. He is the scientific lead for the water monitoring component of UKCEH’s National Capability funded research programme (which includes the National River Flow Archive, the National Hydrological Monitoring Programme and Hydrological Outlook). He has led a number of major UK and international drought research projects including the NERC funded Historic Droughts (2014 – 2018), ENDOWS (2017-2019) and DrIVER (2014-2017) projects all aimed at drought characterisation, monitoring, management and adaptation.
Talk Title: Advances in drought monitoring and early warning and their potential applications in agriculture
Monitoring and early warning systems are essential for proactive drought management, but existing meteorological and hydrological monitoring and forecasting systems are not necessarily capitalised on fully by decision makers – there is often a gap between early warning services and users ‘on the ground’. Here, I will present on some recent advances in drought monitoring and forecasting systems in the UK, including: (i) the development of the UK Water Resources Portal (https://eip.ceh.ac.uk/hydrology/water-resources/) an interactive, dynamic web application that integrates a number of real-time data sources, including daily river flow data and soil moisture; (ii) innovations in hydrological forecasting through the UK Hydrological Outlook (https://www.hydoutuk.net/).
Much of this work was undertaken during the NERC Droughts and Water Scarcity Programme (2014 – 2019) which had a strong focus on stakeholder co-delivery. Hence, these advances were iteratively developed with feedback from decision-makers in a range of sectors, including agriculture. I will discuss how input from end users has helped shape this work, and I will highlight the potential of these products for agricultural applications – with a particular focus on future sector-specific developments that will help further bridge the gap between early warning products and on-farm applications.
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