The Spring 2018 issue of Nature Conservancy magazine reports on promising ways to use water much more wisely than we have in the past. In 2014, they started a pilot program in Nebraska, which has the most acres of irrigated cropland in the U.S. The ongoing program now includes some 8000 acres of land.
Each field was mapped with sensors to determine productivity in each area. These maps form the basis for a system of micro-management of irrigation. Soil sensors tell farmers where water is needed, and smart phones can control the irrigation systems. As fertilizer is often delivered by the irrigation system, this system reduces fertilizer usage as well.
The bottom line is that less water is used for the same or better yields. One farmer quoted in the article said that he used 20% less water and actually had an 8 % increase in his crops.
The September 2017 issue of National Geographic had an extraordinary article on how tiny Holland is a huge exporter of food to the world – second ONLY to the U.S., which is some 270 times the size.
It is an extraordinary system, combining high-tech management with nature's own systems for pollination, pest control and fertilization. They use huge greenhouse complexes and control every aspect of the growing environment.
The result is that many farmers have reduced their dependence on water by as much as 90 percent. And the yields are staggering: one potato farmer mentioned in the article gets over 20 tons of potatoes per acre – the global average is about 9 tons.
With all the bad news about water usage and abusage, it is heartening to read about serious, successful, efforts to protect the most precious substance on the planet.