Better crop water management could reduce hunger

London, Feb 16 (IANS) Improved agricultural water management could significantly boost agricultural production and reduce hunger, while at the same time making up for population growth, say researchers.

Investing in crop-water management could halve the global food gap by 2050 and buffer some of the harmful climate change effects on crop yield, the study said.

“Smart water use can boost agricultural production – we have in fact been surprised to see such sizeable effects at the global level,” said lead study author Jonas Jagermeyr from Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany.

In a water management scenario which the scientists call ambitious, global kilocalorie production could rise by 40 percent, while according to UN estimates roughly 80 percent would be needed to eradicate hunger by the middle of this century.

But even in less ambitious scenarios, results showed that integrated crop water management could make a crucial contribution to filling the plates of the poor, Jagermeyr said.

“It turns out that crop water management is a largely underrated approach to reduce undernourishment and increase climate resilience of smallholders,” Jagermeyr noted.

For the study, the scientists investigated systematically the worldwide potential to produce more food with the same amount of water by optimising rain use and irrigation.

The scientists have ran comprehensive biophysical computer simulations, constraining these in such a way that croplands do not expand into forests and no additional water resources are needed.

The yield increase potential of crop water management was found to be particularly large in water-scarce regions such as in China, Australia, the western US, Mexico, and South Africa.

The findings appeared in the journal Environmental Research Letters.

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