Farmers thirsty for water-saving technology

Jul 17, 2015

The California drought has farmers looking for technical innovations that will help them save water, reported Ilan Brat in the Wall Street Journal.

The article said, in the past, the state's farmers have focused on lowering their costs for labor, energy and other inputs. But now water efficiency has their attention. New technologies described in the article include:

  • a nontoxic gel that, mixed in soil, stores and slowly releases water near the roots
  • a machine that electrically charges mists of pesticides and nutrients to make them stick to leaves more evenly
  • satellite and aerial imagery that improves irrigation planning
  • a water pump monitor that identifies leaks in irrigation equipment
  • applying mulch made form yard waste and construction debris to stem soil-moisture loss

Daniel Sumner, director of the UC Agriculture and Natural Resources Agricultural Issues Center, said that people focused simply on water use are looking at the issue in the wrong way. Growers who find new ways to produce more food per unit of water may generate bigger gains in water efficiency, he said.

“If we can grow more food with our water, that's presumably what we would like to do,” he said.

By Jeannette E. Warnert
Author - Communications Specialist