Innovation in agri-tech

Posted on: 3rd November 2015

Scaling up precision irrigation

Dr Mark Else, Programme Lead – Resource Efficiency for Crop Production, East Malling Research

New, low-input cropping systems are needed to help reduce the impacts of global climate change on food security, food chain quality and availability of limited resources. A first step towards achieving this goal is to identify the agronomic and environmental factors that affect yield, quality and shelf life of fresh produce. An oversupply of irrigation water and fertiliser can lead to excessive vegetative growth which, in turn, reduces light penetration and increases the risk of disease, and during changeable weather can result in produce with poor organoleptic qualities and limited shelf life. Precision, automated irrigation systems that match demand with supply have been developed for several horticultural sectors, and results from on-farm experiments have shown that in addition to improving resource use efficiency, marketable yields and consistency of produce quality can also be improved. New sensors and associated technologies are being developed to ensure that these benefits can be achieved in commercial production systems. In tandem, novel imaging systems are being developed to ease the integration of these low-input approaches into commercial practice, so that consistency of cropping, plant performance and crop responses to abiotic and biotic stresses can be monitored
and measured in real time to inform on-farm decision making.

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