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Event Organiser: ICE

Trends in land and water management: Session 2, webinar

  • Webinar
  • Online
  • 20 November 2020
  • 15:00 - 17:00
Trends in land and water management: Session 2, webinar

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To access the webinar please select the 'Watch broadcast online' link at the top of the page and enter the password: IWF201120

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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. James Lowenberg-DeBoer
15:30-15:40    10mins    Q&A Prof. James Lowenberg-DeBoer
15:40-16:05    25mins    Dr Petra Schmitter
16:05-16:15    10mins    Q&A Dr Petra Schmitter
16:15-16:40    25 mins    Prof. Simon Pearson
16:40-16:50    10mins    Q&A Prof. Simon Pearson
16:50-17:00    10mins    General discussion and wind up


Prof. James Lowenberg-DeBoer

Elizabeth Creak Chair of Agri-Tech Economics, Harper Adams University

Biography:  Prof. Lowenberg-DeBoer holds the Elizabeth Creak Chair in Agri-Tech Applied Economics at Harper Adams University. He is president of the International Society of Precision Agriculture (ISPA) and co-editor of the journal Precision Agriculture. His research focuses on the economics of agricultural technology, including precision agriculture and innovations for smallholder farmers in Africa. He has published 85 articles in refereed journals, two books and six chapters in other books. The government of Burkina Faso awarded him the title of Chevalier d’Ordre National for his work on farm grain storage. His research is informed by farming experience in the USA. 

Title of Talk:The economics of precision water management

Precision agriculture focuses on improving the spatial and temporal management of agricultural inputs, including water. Intuitively it makes sense to apply irrigation water when and where it will provide the most benefit, but implementing that simple insight is complicated because plant and soil moisture information, and water control are costly. Experience with mechanically movable sprinklers (e.g. centre pivot, linear move sprinklers) suggests that current variable rate irrigation (VRI) technology can allocate water accurately in time and space, but knowledge of how to profitably manage such systems is lacking. Experience with site-specific water management for drip, furrow and other types of irrigation is more limited. The variable rate fertilizer experience suggests that farmers, public sector researchers, and the irrigation equipment industry should collaborate in on-farm trials that would determine profitable management with current technology and the improvements needed to make VRI standard practice for irrigators. Simultaneously, research should start on adapting precision water management technology to smallholder farmers in the developing world.

Dr Petra Schmitter

Research Group Leader - Sustainable and Resilient Food Production Systems, International Water Management Institute

Biography: Petra Schmitter is a Senior Researcher at the International Water Management Institute and leads the Research Group on Sustainable and Resilient Food Production Systems. Her main research focuses on developing suitable water solutions for smallholder farmers to improve their agricultural resilience and to assess the impact of scaling those solutions on water resource availability and quality at different scales. Over the past 14 years she has mainly worked in interdisciplinary research for development projects in SE Asia, West and East Africa in the field of farmer-led irrigation, water productivity, irrigation scheme modernization, land degradation and hydrological modelling. She enjoys evaluating suitable water solutions in agriculture with smallholder farmers and uses the field evidence to drive changes in policy and development programs. She holds an MSc. in Bio-Engineering in Environmental Technology from the K.U. Leuven (2004), an Msc. in Water Resources Engineering from the K.U.Leuven – V.U.B.(2005) and a PhD in Agricultural Science from the University of Hohenheim (2011) for which she received an Award for outstanding research. She has more than 30 peer reviewed publications and contributed to book chapters around climate smart solutions to improve agricultural production.

Talk Title: Precision application in smallholder irrigation: a solution to a growing water crisis?

Today, around 500 million farmers live on less than two hectares. These smallholders generate between 30-34% of the global food supply and thus play a key role in improving food security, protecting crop and biological diversity and ensuring the sustainable intensification of agricultural systems. Small-scale farmers face significant challenges, including competition for water and reliance on unpredictable rain to grow food. Additionally, weather-related disasters – such as droughts, and heat waves – are increasing in frequency and intensity. As a result, over 400 million people are expected to be vulnerable to yield losses under climate change, requiring urgent adaptation action. The Global Commission on Adaptation (2019) and Malabo Montpellier Report (2019) highlight the urgency for innovative water and renewable energy solutions to transform agricultural production systems amid a changing climate.

Whilst irrigation is seen as an important climate adaptation pathway, declining groundwater levels and degrading water quality are among some of the perils that confront smallholder farmers as it expands over the globe. This talk will discuss to what extent precision applications need to be combined with other solutions and approaches to support global efforts in dealing with water scarcity across scales.

Prof. Simon Pearson

Director, Lincoln Institute for Agri-Food Technology, University of Lincoln 

Biography: Simon Pearson is Professor of Agri-Food Technology and Founding Director of the Lincoln Institute of Agri-Food Technology at the University of Lincoln. The University now has a substantial research group on agri-robotics with a focus on crop harvesting, crop care and phenotyping technologies. Simon is a leader of the new £6.4M Lincoln Agri Robotics centre and  co investigator of the 50-PhD EPSRC-AgriForwards Centre for Doctoral Training. Prior to joining the University of Lincoln, he spent 15 years working in the food and farming industry.

Talk Title: Advances in agri-robotics

Agri-robotic technologies have the potential to transform agricultural production. Novel technologies are now emerging that can autonomously harvest crops, care for crops in the field, eradicate pests and disease, and accelerate the breeding of conventional crop varieties. This presentation provides an overview of the existing state of the art in agri-robotics and articulates the future role of advanced digital technologies for the agricultural sector.


Event venue

United Kingdom

For more information please contact:

Elira Alushi

e: [email protected]