To feed an additional 2 billion people by 2030, water needs to be used more efficiently. Irrigated land is by large the most productive agricultural land there is. Agriculture uses around 70 percent of all freshwater withdrawals worldwide. It is estimated that water demand would grow by 45 percent by 2030 as increasingly affluent consumers demand higher value food. However, fresh water is becoming scarce and bringing the water to the field becomes more expensive. Therefore, optimising irrigation will save costs and increases yield. Farmers are challenged to produce “more crop per drop”.
Another typical change is noticed in the climate. In the past decades a significant change in rainfall patterns is shown, leading to operational difficulties in the major agricultural production areas. In particular making sure that the crop has enough water (no excess or shortage) has become a bigger challenge these past decades. Farmers value the ability to irrigate (for instance with sprinklers) during hot and dry spells in summer. Technology to irrigate has improved significantly, from advanced dripping systems to mobile sprinklers to provide the water where needed.
MISTRALE delivers relevant information to farmers as the soil moisture content is an important variable to optimise crop growth. The decision to irrigate is a very sensitive one as irrigation costs are high (fuel and other direct costs) so it must be done only when crop stress would lead to a yield depression exceeding the irrigation costs. In order to optimize irrigation farmers have to provide the right amount of water at the right time, in the right place. To do so, better insights in the spatial patterns of soil moisture are essential. The aim of the MISTRALE project is to reach a service providing soil moisture maps and flooded (and wetlands) areas monitoring.