In the past century there has been increasing concern to identify and quantify various forms of agriculture. In the developed world the range usually extends between sustainable agriculture (e. g. permaculture or organic agriculture) and intensive farming (e. g. industrial agriculture). Modern agronomy, plant breeding, pesticides and fertilizers, and technological improvements have sharply increased yields from cultivation, but at the same time have caused widespread ecological damage and negative human health effects.
Selective breeding and modern practices in animal husbandry such as intensive pig farming (and similar practices applied to the chicken) have similarly increased the output of meat, but have raised concerns about animal cruelty and the health effects of the antibiotics, growth hormones, and other chemicals commonly used in industrial meat production. The major agricultural products can be broadly grouped into foods, fibers, fuels, and raw materials.
In the 2000s, plants have been used to grow biofuels, biopharmaceuticals, bioplastics, and pharmaceuticals. Specific foods include cereals, vegetables, fruits, and meat. Fibers include cotton, wool, hemp, silk and flax. Raw materials include lumber and bamboo. Other useful materials are produced by plants, such as resins. Biofuels include methane from biomass, ethanol, and biodiesel. Cut flowers, nursery plants, tropical fish and birds for the pet trade are some of the ornamental products.
In 2007, one third of the world’s workers were employed in agriculture. The services sector has overtaken agriculture as the economic sector employing the most people worldwide. Despite the size of its workforce, agricultural production accounts for less than five percent of the gross world product (an aggregate of all gross domestic products). Crop statistics Important categories of crops include grains and pseudograins, pulses (legumes), forage, and fruits and vegetables.
Specific crops are cultivated in distinct growing regions throughout the world. In millions of metric tons, based on FAO estimate. |Top agricultural products, by crop types | |(million tonnes) 2004 data | |Cereals |2,263 | |Vegetables and melons 866 | |Roots and Tubers |715 | |Milk |619 | |Fruit |503 | |Meat |259 | |Oilcrops |133 | |Fish (2001 estimate) |130 | |Eggs |63 | |Pulses |60 | |Vegetable Fiber |30 | |Top agricultural products, by individual crops | |Sugar Cane |1,324 | |Maize |721 | |Wheat |627 | |Rice |605 | |Potatoes |328 | |Sugar Beet |249 | |Soybean |204 | |Oil Palm Fruit |162 | |Barley |154 | [pic] Ploughing rice paddies with water buffalo, in Indonesia. Animals, including horses, mules, oxen, camels, llamas, alpacas, and dogs, are often used to help cultivate fields, harvest crops, wrangle other animals, and transport farm products to buyers. Animal husbandry not only refers to the breeding and raising of animals for meat or to harvest animal products (like milk, eggs, or wool) on a continual basis, but also to the breeding and care of species for work and companionship.
Livestock production systems can be defined based on feed source, as grassland – based, mixed, and landless. Grassland based livestock production relies upon plant material such as shrubland, rangeland, and pastures for feeding ruminant animals. Outside nutrient inputs may be used, however manure is returned directly to the grassland as a major nutrient source. This system is particularly important in areas where crop production is not feasible because of climate or soil, representing 30-40 million pastoralists. Mixed production systems use grassland, fodder crops and grain feed crops as feed for ruminant and monogastic (one stomach; mainly chickens and pigs) livestock.
Manure is typically recycled in mixed systems as a fertilizer for crops. Approximately 68% of all agricultural land is permanent pastures used in the production of livestock. Landless systems rely upon feed from outside the farm, representing the de-linking of crop and livestock production found more prevalently in OECD member countries. In the U. S. , 70% of the grain grown is fed to animals on feedlots. Synthetic fertilizers are more heavily relied upon for crop production and manure utilization becomes a challenge as well as a source for pollution. Production practices [pic] Road leading across the farm allows machinery access to the farm for production practices.
Tillage is the practice of plowing soil to prepare for planting or for nutrient incorporation or for pest control. Tillage varies in intensity from conventional to no-till. It may improve productivity by warming the soil, incorporating fertilizer and controlling weeds, but also renders soil more prone to erosion, triggers the decomposition of organic matter releasing CO2, and reduces the abundance and diversity of soil organisms. Pest control includes the management of weeds, insects/mites, and diseases. Chemical (pesticides), biological (biocontrol), mechanical (tillage), and cultural practices are used. Cultural practices include crop rotation, culling, cover crops, intercropping, composting, avoidance, and resistance.
Integrated pest management attempts to use all of these methods to keep pest populations below the number which would cause economic loss, and recommends pesticides as a last resort. Nutrient management includes both the source of nutrient inputs for crop and livestock production, and the method of utilization of manure produced by livestock. Nutrient inputs can be chemical inorganic fertilizers, manure, green manure, compost and mined minerals. Crop nutrient use may also be managed using cultural techniques such as crop rotation or a fallow period. Manure is used either by holding livestock where the feed crop is growing, such as in managed intensive rotational grazing, or by spreading either dry or liquid formulations of manure on cropland or pastures.
Water management is where rainfall is insufficient or variable, which occurs to some degree in most regions of the world. Some farmers use irrigation to supplement rainfall. In other areas such as the Great Plains in the U. S. and Canada, farmers use a fallow year to conserve soil moisture to use for growing a crop in the following year. Agriculture represents 70% of freshwater use worldwide. Processing, distribution, and marketing In the United States, food costs attributed to processing, distribution, and marketing have risen while the costs attributed to farming have declined. This is related to the greater efficiency of farming, combined with the increased level of value addition (e. g. ore highly processed products) provided by the supply chain. From 1960 to 1980 the farm share was around 40%, but by 1990 it had declined to 30% and by 1998, 22. 2%. Market concentration has increased in the sector as well, with the top 20 food manufacturers accounting for half the food-processing value in 1995, over double that produced in 1954. As of 2000 the top six US supermarket groups had 50% of sales compared to 32% in 1992. Although the total effect of the increased market concentration is likely increased efficiency, the changes redistribute economic surplus from producers (farmers) and consumers, and may have negative implications for rural communities.
Crop alteration and biotechnology [pic] Tractor and Chaser bin. Crop alteration has been practiced by humankind for thousands of years, since the beginning of civilization. Altering crops through breeding practices changes the genetic make-up of a plant to develop crops with more beneficial characteristics for humans, for example, larger fruits or seeds, drought-tolerance, or resistance to pests. Significant advances in plant breeding ensued after the work of geneticist Gregor Mendel. His work on dominant and recessive alleles gave plant breeders a better understanding of genetics and brought great insights to the techniques utilized by plant breeders.
Crop breeding includes techniques such as plant selection with desirable traits, self-pollination and cross-pollination, and molecular techniques that genetically modify the organism. Domestication of plants has, over the centuries increased yield, improved disease resistance and drought tolerance, eased harvest and improved the taste and nutritional value of crop plants. Careful selection and breeding have had enormous effects on the characteristics of crop plants. Plant selection and breeding in the 1920s and 1930s improved pasture (grasses and clover) in New Zealand. Extensive X-ray an ultraviolet induced mutagenesis efforts (i. e. primitive enetic engineering) during the 1950s produced the modern commercial varieties of grains such as wheat, corn (maize) and barley. The green revolution popularized the use of conventional hybridization to increase yield many folds by creating “high-yielding varieties”. For example, average yields of corn (maize) in the USA have increased from around 2. 5 tons per hectare (t/ha) (40 bushels per acre) in 1900 to about 9. 4 t/ha (150 bushels per acre) in 2001. Similarly, worldwide average wheat yields have increased from less than 1 t/ha in 1900 to more than 2. 5 t/ha in 1990. South American average wheat yields are around 2 t/ha, African under 1 t/ha, Egypt and Arabia up to 3. 5 to 4 t/ha with irrigation.
In contrast, the average wheat yield in countries such as France is over 8 t/ha. Genetic engineering Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) are organisms whose genetic material has been altered by genetic engineering techniques generally known as recombinant DNA technology. Genetic engineering has expanded the genes available to breeders to utilize in creating desired germlines for new crops. After mechanical tomato-harvesters were developed in the early 1960s, agricultural scientists genetically modified tomatoes to be more resistant to mechanical handling. More recently, genetic engineering is being employed in various parts of the world, to create crops with other beneficial traits. Herbicide-tolerant GMO Crops
Roundup Ready seed has a herbicide resistant gene implanted into its genome that allows the plants to tolerate exposure to glyphosate. Roundup is a trade name for a glyphosate-based product, which is a systemic, nonselective herbicide used to kill weeds. Roundup Ready seeds allow the farmer to grow a crop that can be sprayed with glyphosate to control weeds without harming the resistant crop. Herbicide-tolerant crops are used by farmers worldwide. Today, 92% of soybean acreage in the US is planted with genetically modified herbicide-tolerant plants. With the increasing use of herbicide-tolerant crops, comes an increase in the use of glyphosate-based herbicide sprays. In some areas glyphosate resistant weeds have developed, causing farmers to switch to other herbicides.
Some studies also link widespread glyphosate usage to iron deficiencies in some crops, which is both a crop production and a nutritional quality concern, with potential economic and health implications. Insect-resistant GMO Crops Other GMO crops used by growers include insect-resistant crops, which have a gene from the soil bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt), which produces a toxin specific to insects. These crops protect plants from damage by insects; one such crop is Starlink. Another is cotton, which accounts for 63% of US cotton acreage. Some believe that similar or better pest-resistance traits can be acquired through traditional breeding practices, and resistance to various pests can be gained through hybridization or cross-pollination with wild species.
In some cases, wild species are the primary source of resistance traits; some tomato cultivars that have gained resistance to at least nineteen diseases did so through crossing with wild populations of tomatoes. Costs and benefits of GMOs Genetic engineers may someday develop transgenic plants which would allow for irrigation, drainage, conservation, sanitary engineering, and maintaining or increasing yields while requiring fewer fossil fuel derived inputs than conventional crops. Such developments would be particularly important in areas which are normally arid and rely upon constant irrigation, and on large scale farms. However, genetic engineering of plants has proven to be controversial. Many issues surrounding food security and environmental impacts have risen regarding GMO practices.
For example, GMOs are questioned by some ecologists and economists concerned with GMO practices such as terminator seeds, which is a genetic modification that creates sterile seeds. Terminator seeds are currently under strong international opposition and face continual efforts of global bans. Another controversial issue is the patent protection given to companies that develop new types of seed using genetic engineering. Since companies have intellectual ownership of their seeds, they have the power to dictate terms and conditions of their patented product. Currently, ten seed companies control over two-thirds of the global seed sales. Vandana Shiva argues that these companies are guilty of biopiracy by patenting life and exploiting organisms for profit.
Farmers using patented seed are restricted from saving seed for subsequent plantings, which forces farmers to buy new seed every year. Since seed saving is a traditional practice for many farmers in both developing and developed countries, GMO seeds legally bind farmers to change their seed saving practices to buying new seed every year. Locally adapted seeds are an essential hertitage that has the potential to be lost with current hybridized crops and GMOs. Locally adapted seeds, also called land races or crop eco-types, are important because they have adapted over time to the specific microclimates, soils, other environmental conditions, field designs, and ethnic preference indigenous to the exact area of cultivation.
Introducing GMOs and hybridized commercial seed to an area brings the risk of cross-pollination with local land races Therefore, GMOs pose a threat to the sustainability of land races and the ethnic heritage of cultures. Once seed contains transgenic material, it becomes subject to the conditions of the seed company that owns the patent of the transgenic material. There is also concern that GMOs will cross-pollinate with wild species and permanently alter native populations’ genetic integrity; there are already identified populations of wild plants with transgenic genes. GMO gene flow to related weed species is a concern, as well as cross-pollination with non-transgenic crops.
Since many GMO crops are harvested for their seed, such as rapeseed, seed spillage in is problematic for volunteer plants in rotated fields, as well as seed-spillage during transportation. Food safety and labeling Food security issues also coincide with food safety and food labeling concerns. Currently a global treaty, the BioSafety Protocol, regulates the trade of GMOs. The EU currently requires all GMO foods to be labeled, whereas the US does not require transparent labeling of GMO foods. Since there are still questions regarding the safety and risks associated with GMO foods, some believe the public should have the freedom to choose and know what they are eating and require all GMO products to be labeled. Environmental impact
Agriculture imposes external costs upon society through pesticides, nutrient runoff, excessive water usage, and assorted other problems. A 2000 assessment of agriculture in the UK determined total external costs for 1996 of ? 2,343 million, or ? 208 per hectare. A 2005 analysis of these costs in the USA concluded that cropland imposes approximately $5 to 16 billion ($30 to $96 per hectare), while livestock production imposes $714 million. Both studies concluded that more should be done to internalize external costs, and neither included subsidies in their analysis, but noted that subsidies also influence the cost of agriculture to society. Both focused on purely fiscal impacts.
The 2000 review included reported pesticide poisonings but did not include speculative chronic effects of pesticides, and the 2004 review relied on a 1992 estimate of the total impact of pesticides. A key player who is credited to saving billions of lives because of his revolutionary work in developing new agricultural techniques is Norman Borlaug. His transformative work brought high-yield crop varieties to developing countries and earned him an unofficial title as the father of the Green Revolution. Livestock issues A senior UN official and co-author of a UN report detailing this problem, Henning Steinfeld, said “Livestock are one of the most significant contributors to today’s most serious environmental problems”.
Livestock production occupies 70% of all land used for agriculture, or 30% of the land surface of the planet. It is one of the largest sources of greenhouse gases, responsible for 18% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions as measured in CO2 equivalents. By comparison, all transportation emits 13. 5% of the CO2. It produces 65% of human-related nitrous oxide (which has 296 times the global warming potential of CO2,) and 37% of all human-induced methane (which is 23 times as warming as CO2. It also generates 64% of the ammonia, which contributes to acid rain and acidification of ecosystems. Livestock expansion is cited as a key factor driving deforestation, in the Amazon asin 70% of previously forested area is now occupied by pastures and the remainder used for feedcrops. Through deforestation and land degradation, livestock is also driving reductions in biodiversity. Land transformation and degradation Land transformation, the use of land to yield goods and services, is the most substantial way humans alter the Earth’s ecosystems, and is considered the driving force in the loss of biodiversity. Estimates of the amount of land transformed by humans vary from 39–50%. Land degradation, the long-term decline in ecosystem function and productivity, is estimated to be occurring on 24% of land worldwide, with cropland overrepresented.
The UN-FAO report cites land management as the driving factor behind degradation and reports that 1. 5 billion people rely upon the degrading land. Degradation can be deforestation, desertification, soil erosion, mineral depletion, or chemical degradation (acidification and salinization). Eutrophication Eutrophication or excessive nutrients in aquatic ecosystems resulting in algal blooms and anoxia, leads to fish kills, loss of biodiversity, and renders water unfit for drinking and other industrial uses. Excessive fertilization and manure application to cropland, as well as high livestock stocking densities cause nutrient (mainly nitrogen and phosphorus) runoff and leaching from agricultural land.
These nutrients are major nonpoint pollutants contributing to eutrophication of aquatic ecosystems. Pesticides Pesticide use has increased since 1950 to 2. 5 million tons annually worldwide, yet crop loss from pests has remained relatively constant. The World Health Organization estimated in 1992 that 3 million pesticide poisonings occur annually, causing 220,000 deaths. A condition termed the ‘pesticide treadmill’ in which pest resistance warrants the development of a new pesticide. Energy and agriculture Since the 1940s, agricultural productivity has increased dramatically, due largely to the increased use of energy-intensive mechanization, fertilizers and pesticides. The vast majority of this energy input comes from fossil fuel sources.
Between 1950 and 1984, the Green Revolution transformed agriculture around the globe, with world grain production increasing by 250% as world population doubled. Modern agriculture’s heavy reliance on petrochemicals and mechanization has raised concerns that oil shortages could increase costs and reduce agricultural output, causing food shortages. |Agriculture and food system share (%) of total energy | |consumption by three industrialized nations | |Country |Year |Agriculture |Food | | | |(direct & indirect) |system | |United Kingdom |2005 |1. |11 | |United States of America |1996 |2. 1 |10 | |Sweden |2000 |2. 5 |13 | Modern or industrialized agriculture is dependent on fossil fuels in two fundamental ways: 1) direct consumption on the farm and 2) indirect consumption to manufacture inputs used on the farm. Direct consumption includes the use of lubricants and fuels to operate farm vehicles and machinery; and use of gas, liquid propane, and electricity to power dryers, pumps, lights, heaters, and coolers. American farms directly consumed about 1. 2 exajoules (1. quadrillion BTU) in 2002, or just over 1 percent of the nation’s total energy. Indirect consumption is mainly oil and natural gas used to manufacture fertilizers and pesticides, which accounted for 0. 6 exajoules (0. 6 quadrillion BTU) in 2002. The energy used to manufacture farm machinery is also a form of indirect agricultural energy consumption, but it is not included in USDA estimates of U. S. agricultural energy use. Together, direct and indirect consumption by U. S. farms accounts for about 2 percent of the nation’s energy use. Direct and indirect energy consumption by U. S. farms peaked in 1979, and has gradually declined over the past 30 years.
Food systems encompass not just agricultural production, but also off-farm processing, packaging, transporting, marketing, consumption, and disposal of food and food-related items. Agriculture accounts for approximately one-fifth of food system energy use in the United States. Oil shortages could impact this food supply. Some farmers using modern organic-farming methods have reported yields as high as those available from conventional farming without the use of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides. However, the reconditioning of soil to restore nutrients lost during the use of monoculture agriculture techniques made possible by petroleum-based technology takes time.
In 2007, higher incentives for farmers to grow non-food biofuel crops combined with other factors (such as over-development of former farm lands, rising transportation costs, climate change, growing consumer demand in China and India, and population growth) to cause food shortages in Asia, the Middle East, Africa, and Mexico, as well as rising food prices around the globe. As of December 2007, 37 countries faced food crises, and 20 had imposed some sort of food-price controls. Some of these shortages resulted in food riots and even deadly stampedes. The biggest fossil fuel input to agriculture is the use of natural gas as a hydrogen source for the Haber-Bosch fertilizer-creation process. Natural gas is used because it is the cheapest currently available source of hydrogen.
When oil production becomes so scarce that natural gas is used as a partial stopgap replacement, and hydrogen use in transportation increases, natural gas will become much more expensive. If the Haber Process is unable to be commercialized using renewable energy (such as by electrolysis) or if other sources of hydrogen are not available to replace the Haber Process, in amounts sufficient to supply transportation and agricultural needs, this major source of fertilizer would either become extremely expensive or unavailable. This would either cause food shortages or dramatic rises in food prices. Mitigation of effects of petroleum shortages One effect oil shortages could have on agriculture is a full return to organic agriculture.
In light of peak-oil concerns, organic methods are more sustainable than contemporary practices because they use no petroleum-based pesticides, herbicides, or fertilizers. Some farmers using modern organic-farming methods have reported yields as high as those available from conventional farming. Organic farming may however be more labor-intensive and would require a shift of the workforce from urban to rural areas. It has been suggested that rural communities might obtain fuel from the biochar and synfuel process, which uses agricultural waste to provide charcoal fertilizer, some fuel and food, instead of the normal food vs fuel debate. As the synfuel would be used on-site, the process would be more efficient and might just provide enough fuel for a new organic-agriculture fusion.
It has been suggested that some transgenic plants may some day be developed which would allow for maintaining or increasing yields while requiring fewer fossil-fuel-derived inputs than conventional crops. The possibility of success of these programs is questioned by ecologists and economists concerned with unsustainable GMO practices such as terminator seeds, and a January 2008 report shows that GMO practices “fail to deliver environmental, social and economic benefits. ” While there has been some research on sustainability using GMO crops, at least one hyped and prominent multi-year attempt by Monsanto Company has been unsuccessful, though during the same period traditional breeding techniques yielded a more sustainable variety of the same crop.
Additionally, a survey by the bio-tech industry of subsistence farmers in Africa to discover what GMO research would most benefit sustainable agriculture only identified non-transgenic issues as areas needing to be addressed. Nevertheless, some governments in Africa continue to view investments in new transgenic technologies as an essential component of efforts to improve sustainability. An alternative argument is that the way to ‘save the environment’ and prevent famine is by using pesticides and intensive high yield farming, a view exemplified by a quote heading the Center for Global Food Issues website: ‘Growing more per acre leaves more land for nature’. However, critics argue that a trade-off between the environment and a need for food is not inevitable, and that pesticides simply replace good agronomic practices such as crop rotation. [pic] [pic]
Irrigation Irrigation is an artificial application of water to the soil. It is used to assist in the growing of agricultural crops, maintenance of landscapes, and revegetation of disturbed soils in dry areas and during periods of inadequate rainfall. Additionally, irrigation also has a few other uses in crop production, which include protecting plants against frost, suppressing weed growing in grain fields and helping in preventing soil consolidation. In contrast, agriculture that relies only on direct rainfall is referred to as rain-fed or dryland farming. Irrigation systems are also used for dust suppression, disposal of sewage, and in mining.
Irrigation is often studied together with drainage, which is the natural or artificial removal of surface and sub-surface water from a given area. Irrigation is also a term used in medical/dental fields to refer to flushing and washing out anything with water or another liquid. [pic] An Irrigation sprinkler watering a lawn History of irrigation in Mesopotamia, Egypt and Iran as far back as the 6th millennium BCE, where barley was grown in areas where the natural rainfall was insufficient to support such a crop. In the Zana Valley of the Andes Mountains in Peru, archaeologists found remains of three irrigation canals radiocarbon dated from the 4th millennium BCE, the 3rd millennium BCE and the 9th century CE. These canals are the earliest record of irrigation in the New World.
Traces of a canal possibly dating from the 5th millennium BCE were found under the 4th millennium canal. Sophisticated irrigation and storage systems were developed by the Indus Valley Civilization in Pakistan and North India, including the reservoirs at Girnar in 3000 BCE and an early canal irrigation system from circa 2600 BCE. Large scale agriculture was practiced and an extensive network of canals was used for the purpose of irrigation. There is evidence of the ancient Egyptian pharaoh Amenemhet III in the twelfth dynasty (about 1800 BCE) using the natural lake of the Faiyum Oasis as a reservoir to store surpluses of water for use during the dry seasons, the lake swelled annually from flooding of the Nile.
The Qanats, developed in ancient Persia in about 800 BCE, are among the oldest known irrigation methods still in use today. They are now found in Asia, the Middle East and North Africa. The system comprises a network of vertical wells and gently sloping tunnels driven into the sides of cliffs and steep hills to tap groundwater. The noria, a water wheel with clay pots around the rim powered by the flow of the stream (or by animals where the water source was still), was first brought into use at about this time, by Roman settlers in North Africa. By 150 BCE the pots were fitted with valves to allow smoother filling as they were forced into the water.
The irrigation works of ancient Sri Lanka, the earliest dating from about 300 BCE, in the reign of King Pandukabhaya and under continuous development for the next thousand years, were one of the most complex irrigation systems of the ancient world. In addition to underground canals, the Sinhalese were the first to build completely artificial reservoirs to store water. Due to their engineering superiority in this sector, they were often called ‘masters of irrigation’. Most of these irrigation systems still exist undamaged up to now, in Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa, because of the advanced and precise engineering. The system was extensively restored and further extended during the reign of King Parakrama Bahu (1153–1186 CE).
The oldest known hydraulic engineers of China were Sunshu Ao (6th century BCE) of the Spring and Autumn Period and Ximen Bao (5th century BCE) of the Warring States period, both of whom worked on large irrigation projects. In the Szechwan region belonging to the State of Qin of ancient China, the Dujiangyan Irrigation System was built in 256 BCE to irrigate an enormous area of farmland that today still supplies water. By the 2nd century AD, during the Han Dynasty, the Chinese also used chain pumps that lifted water from lower elevation to higher elevation. These were powered by manual foot pedal, hydraulic waterwheels, or rotating mechanical wheels pulled by oxen. The water was used for public orks of providing water for urban residential quarters and palace gardens, but mostly for irrigation of farmland canals and channels in the fields. Agriculture Rain Water Harvesting Water is essential to all life – human, animal and vegetation. It is therefore important that adequate supplies of water be developed to sustain such life. Development of water supplies should, however, be undertaken in such a way as to preserve the hydrological balance and the biological functions of all ecosystems. This is crucial for marginal lands. Consequently, the human endeavour in the development of water sources must be within the capacity of nature to replenish and to sustain. If this is not done, costly mistakes can occur with serious consequences.
The application of innovative technologies and the improvement of indigenous ones should therefore include management of the water sources to ensure sustainability and to safeguard the sources against pollution. As land pressure rises, more and more marginal areas in the world are being used for agriculture. Much of this land is located in the arid or semi-arid belts where rainfall is irregular and much of the precious water is soon lost as surface runoff. Recent droughts have highlighted the risks to human beings and livestock, which occur when rains falter or fail. While irrigation may be the most obvious response to drought, it has proved costly and can only benefit a fortunate few.
There is now increasing interest in the low cost alternative-generally referred to as ‘water harvesting’. Definition of rain water harvesting Rainwater harvesting is defined as a method for inducing, collecting, storing and conserving local surface runoff for agriculture in arid and semi-arid regions. Rainfall has four facets. Rainfall induces surface flow on the runoff area. At the lower end of the slope, runoff collects in the basin area, where a major portion infiltrates and is stored in the root zone. After infiltration has ceased, then follows the conservation of the stored soil water. Historical perspectives Various forms of rain water harvesting (RWH) have been used traditionally throughout the centuries.
Some of the earliest agriculture, in the Middle East, was based on techniques such as diversion of “Wadi” flow (spate flow from normally dry water courses) onto agricultural fields. Other examples include the Negev desert (Evenari et al. , 1971), the desert areas of Arizona and Northwest Mexico (Zaunderer and Hutchinson, 1988) and Southern Tunisia (Pacey and Cullis, 1986). The importance of traditional, small scale systems of rainwater harvesting in sub-Sahara Africa has recently been recognised (Critchley and Reij, 1989). Simple stone lines are used, e. g. Burkina Faso and Mali; earth bunding systems in eastern Sudan, Kenya and the central rangelands of Somalia. Recent developments The potential of water harvesting for improved crop production received great attention in the 1970s and 1980s.
This was due to the widespread droughts in Africa which left a trail of crop failures and a serious threat to human and livestock life. Consequently a number of water harvesting projects were set up in sub-Sahara Africa. The main objectives were to combat the effects of drought by improving plant production and in some areas rehabilitating abandoned and degraded land (Critchley and Reij, 1989). However, few of the projects have succeeded in combining technical efficiency with low cost and acceptability to the local farmers or agro-pastoralists. This was partly due to the lack of technical “know how” but also often due to the selection of an inappropriate approach with regard to the prevailing socio-economic conditions. Major techniques of RWH for crop production
Before selecting a specific technique, due consideration must be given to the social and cultural aspects prevailing in the area of concern as they are paramount and will affect the success or failure of the technique implemented. This is particularly important in the arid and semi-arid regions of Africa and may help to explain the failure of so many projects that did not take into account the people’s priorities. In arid and semi-arid Africa, most of the population has experienced basic subsistence regimes which resulted over the centuries in setting priorities for survival. Until all higher priorities have been satisfied, no lower priority activities can be effectively undertaken. In addition to the socio-economic considerations, a water harvesting scheme will be sustainable if it also fulfils a number of basic technical criteria.
Major categories of RWH In crop production systems, RWH is composed of a runoff producing area normally called the catchment area (CA) and a runoff utilisation area normally called cropped basin (CB) Therefore RWH systems for crop production are divided into different categories basically determined by the distance between CA and CB as follows: In-situ rain water harvesting The first step in any RWH system involves methods to increase the amount of water stored in the soil profile by trapping or holding the rain where it falls. This may involve small movements of rainwater as surface runoff in order to concentrate the water where it is wanted most.
In-situ RWH is sometimes called water conservation and is basically a prevention of net runoff from a given cropped area by holding rain water and prolonging the time for infiltration. This system works better where the soil water holding capacity is large enough and the rainfall is equal or more than the crop water requirement, but moisture amount in the soil is restricted by the amount of infiltration and or deep percolation. The in-situ RWH is achieved mainly by the following means: Deep tillage: Tillage normally assists in increasing the soil moisture holding capacity through increased porosity, increasing the infiltration rates and reducing the surface runoff by providing surface micro-relief or roughness which helps in temporary storage of rain water, thus providing more time for infiltration.
Previous research results have shown that the depth of tillage is the most important factor controlling or affecting soil moisture characteristics. Deep tillage helps to increase porosity, reduce surface sealing of the soil and permits roots proliferation to exploit soil water and nutrients at deep horizons (Hudson, 1987). Significant reduction of surface runoff and increase in crop yields have been shown to occur with increased depth of tillage in Hombolo, Central Dodoma. Contour farming and ridging: This is important where cultivation is done on slopes ranging from 3% and above. All farm husbandry practices such as tilling and weeding are done along the contours so as to form cross-slope barrier to the flow of water.
Where this is not enough, it is complemented with ridges which are sometimes tied to create a high degree of surface roughness to enhance the infiltration of water into the soil. [pic] Agronomic practices: Practices such as use of FYM, timely weeding and mulching are used to enhance water availability in the soil by improving the water holding capacity and reducing soil water evaporation. Internal (Micro) catchment RWH This is a system where there is a distinct division of CA and CB but the areas are adjacent to each other. This system is mainly used for growing medium water demanding crops such as maize, sorghum, groundnuts and millet. The major characteristics of the system include: Pitting: These are small semi-circular pits dug to break the crusted soil surface.
In West Africa where they are called ‘Zay’, the pits are about 30 cm in diameter and 20 cm deep. FYM is added in the pits thus permitting the concentration of water and nutrients. Seeds are planted in the middle of the pits. The same system is called Katumani pitting in Kenya. They are used in areas with rainfall of between 350-600 mm. [pic] Layout of pitting RWH Strip catchment tillage: This involves tilling strips of land along crop rows and leaving appropriate sections of the inter-row space uncultivated so as to release runoff. It is normally used where the slopes are gentle and the runoff from the uncultivated parts add water to the cropped strips.
The Catchment: Basin Area Ratios (CBAR) used are normally less than or equal to 2:1. The system can be used for nearly all types of crops and is easy to mechanize. [pic] RWH with strip catchment tillage Contour bunds: This system consists of small trash, earth or stone embankments, constructed along the contour lines. The embankments trap the water flow behind the bunds allowing deeper infiltration into the soil. The height of the bund determines the net storage of the structure. [pic] RWH with Contour bunding The water is stored in the soil profile and above ground to the elevation of the bund or overflow structure. This is a versatile system for crop production in a variety of situations.
They can be easily constructed but they are limited to availability of power (for earth moving), stones and trash. They are useful where ground slope is not more than 5%, soil depth is at least 1 m and rainfall intensity is less than 20 mm/h for 1-hour duration storms with P = 20%. They are designed with CBAR of less than 3:1. Semi-circular bunds: These are constructed in series in staggered formation as shown in Figure 5. Runoff water is collected within the hoop from the area above it and impounded by the depth decided by the height of the bund and the position of the tips. Excess water is discharged around the tips and is intercepted by the second row and so on.
Normally the semi-circles are of 4-12 m radius with height of 30 cm, base width of 80 cm, side slopes 1:1. 5 and crest width of 20 cm. The percentage of enclosed area which is cultivated depends on the rainfall regime of the area. Basic requirements of the semi-circular bunds are: • ground slope must be less than 3%, • soil depth, at least 1 m, • average annual rainfall of at least 100 mm, • CBAR of at least 3:1 and • rainfall intensities of I60 equal to 50 mm/h for rainfall of P = 20%. Meskat-type system: In this system instead of having CA and CB alternating like the previous methods, here the field is divided into two distinct parts, the CA and CB, whereby the CB is immediately below the CA.