Food and agriculture are the largest consumers of water today (70% of water used in the world). Going forward, availability of water for agriculture is going to be one of the major concerns across rural India. Reports suggest that India uses more groundwater than China and the United States combined. The fast depleting groundwater resources and climate change are going to be a serious concern for food production. Unless faster steps are taken to manage water in agriculture, food security for the nation will be a worrying factor. By 2030, most of the groundwater in the country will be under critical condition this means that the agriculture will be at the highest risk.
Solutions to Tackle Indian Agriculture Water Crisis
Indian agriculture needs to be sustainably inclined by implementing and deploying region specific interventions in preserving the precious water resource. Here are 10 ways in which Indian agriculture can conserve water –
1) Soil Compaction Management – Breaking the hard/compacted layers in the soil which are preventing root penetration through implement called subsoilers. This initiative can help in increasing water-holding capacity of the farm and reduces soil erosion.
2) Adopting biological interventions such as vermicomposting and organic fertilizers which increases the soil organic carbon. This intervention is found to improve the soil structure and can increase the water-holding capacity of the fields helping crop growth in drought conditions.
3) Conservation Tillage (Zero Till Farming) – Under this method, the previous crop residues are distributed evenly and left on the soil surface and no implements are used to turn the soil over. This practice can help in increasing water absorption and reduces evaporation, erosion, and compaction.
4) Deployment of Drought Tolerate Varieties – India is a country known for drought. Planting drought-tolerant varieties that are appropriate to the region’s climate which requires low water needs for getting more crop per drop is very critical.
5) Shade Nets and Playhouse for producing seedlings and vegetables: Deployment of protected climate-smart seedling production techniques which reduce water usage by 40% to 50% during the nursery.
6) Using covering material called Mulch on the topsoil to conserve moisture. This intervention suppresses weed growth and reduces evaporation and saves water.
7) Micro-Irrigation and Drip Irrigation: Deployment of Drip Irrigation to deliver water directly to the plant’s root. This initiative saves more than 50% water than conventional irrigation and even contributes to increased crop yields by 20%.
8) Cover Crops: Deployment of green manuring crops to cover the soil during the off-season. The cover crops increase soil fertility and organic matter and allow water to more easily penetrate the soil and improve its water-holding volume.
9) Deployment of farm ponds, trenches & furrows to capture and store rainfall for use throughout the year.
It is very important for the farming community, governments, and all key stakeholders in agriculture across the country to protect the watersheds through implementing best practices & technologies. The main focus should be producing more crop per drop of water to sustain farming in the country.