Little Drips Driving Efficient Water Use in Agriculture
To optimize the harvest yields, farmers employ cutting-edge technology like drip irrigation systems.
Water is one of the most important resources in agriculture, particularly in regions that are frequently affected by drought and rationing measures. Farmers in these regions are often hit by heavy losses. State-of-the-art drip irrigation systems help them manage this vital resource efficiently while at the same time ensuring that their crops receive precise protection.
Daniel Cárdenas Cevallos Jr. from Mexico remembers vividly how it feels to run stumbling through the fields, the scent of plant residues in the air, ahead of him the freshly harvested soil, behind him his pursuers, shimmering in the midday heat. He hears their hoots, he gasps, turns round – and trips over a lump of earth. His fingers dig deep into the soil while the laughing pursuers hurl themselves on top of him.
“We were a real gang: siblings, cousins and friends. Wherever we played nothing was going to grow again for a while!" Daniel Cárdenas Cevallos Jr. has to smile when he thinks back to his childhood. It was a happy time, he says, full of joy. Ever since he can think he has lived in Culiacán, the capital of the state of Sinaloa in western Mexico, and as a small boy he played in his family’s vegetable fields every day. Already his grandfather had been a farmer in this agriculture-dominated region with its humid summers and mild winters, where the white-washed houses with their red-tiled roofs keep twinkling in the sun.
Even then Daniel had known that he wanted to be an agricultural engineer when he grew up. “It was always my goal to take over the farm.” And indeed, today he is the manager of Agrícola El Porvenir, the farm established by his grandfather and his father in 1949. Farming is not just his job but also his passion. “I’m ambitious, that’s true, but even if so, it had never been my goal to own the largest farm in Mexico one day,” he explains. “What I did want was to make my farm the best agricultural company in the country.”
But the demands on the international market are huge, and the standards expected by consumers are extremely high: vegetables should be crisp and fresh, without any bruises, scratches or brown spots – at all times. “At the same time, we have to make sure that our produce is safe in terms of food hygiene and not infected with bacteria or Salmonella,” explains Daniel. “And the use of crop protection products is strictly regulated.” What’s more, the competition in the vegetable-growing industry is extremely tough.
Daniel plans to use innovation to tackle these challenges. To optimize his harvest yields, he employs cutting-edge technology and uses shading nets and greenhouses to protect his plants against pests.
When talking shop about agriculture with other farmers, the discussions mainly focus on one topic: water. In hot and dry countries like Mexico, water is a precious resource. Daniel has to gauge the irrigation of his crops precisely: as much water as necessary, as little water as possible. After all, he doesn’t want to waste a drop. He has therefore got rid of the traditional approach with water channels between the fields and uses a drip irrigation system.
This system protected him against high losses during a severe drought – an experience that strengthened his innovative spirit. He has long since used the method on almost all of his land – and not only that: he intends to make sure that his farm is always state-of-the-art. To this end, Daniel is always in close contact with international scientists and specialists in the fields of water management and agricultural science – including the researchers at Bayer, the developers of cutting-edge crop protection products which are ideally suited for use in drip irrigation systems.
The process is called drip-by-drip. The crop protection product is distributed throughout the fields via the drip irrigation system and in this way is delivered directly to the roots of the vegetables. “This system enables targeted and thus conservative application of crop protection products,” explains Dr. José Refugio García Quintero. “The crops can take them up directly, which is much more effective than spraying the plants’ leaves.” The agricultural scientist at the Autonomous University of Sinaloa is conducting research into crop protection agents and working as a consultant for the Agrícola El Porvenir. He is convinced of the benefits of the drip-by-drip method. “It conserves both resources and the environment while reliably protecting crops against pest and fungal infestations,” he says. “That enables them to develop well and produce high yields.”
When Daniel Cárdenas Cevallos wanders over his freshly harvested fields today, he can still smell the unmistakable scent of fresh plant residue that has accompanied him ever since he was a child. He can feel the loose earth beneath his boots and is happy. This land is his home. And that will always be true – of that he is certain. Daniel is convinced that technological progress will enable him to keep increasing his yields in the years to come. “All it takes is clever ideas, the hard work of good people and successful collaboration with companies like Bayer,” he says. “You have to keep abreast of developments when it comes to water management technology.” Companies like Bayer are serious about their commitment to safeguarding the future of farming, he says. “That’s the sort of company I want to join forces with. After all, only if we work together can we prevail.”