Crop production in large parts of the world is facing increasingly critical challenges due to changing climate and water availability conditions. Prolonged droughts, widespread floods and erratic rainfall patterns are amongst the key factors affecting crop harvest and quality of agricultural commodities. Researchers from Wageningen University, the Netherlands recently launched an international research program to support farmers dealing with such challenges. The Waterapps program aims to contribute to more sustainable crop production with its tailor made weather and water information for farmers.
The challenges of using weather and water information for crop production
Although weather and water availability conditions are vital information for crop planning and management, such information is often not effectively used. Farmers, especially those in developing countries, often cannot access the necessary information which can support their farming decisions. In certain cases, water information is accessible, but the usability of such information is rather limited. For example, rainfall forecasts are publicly available, but farmers cannot make use of these forecasts because they are not specific enough to the farm level. The needs for accessible and reliable weather and water information are becoming increasingly pressing as farmers feel that the weather and water conditions are becoming more unpredictable.
Newly installed irrigation system for crop production in Ghana. Photo credit: Daan Musters, Wageningen University
The Waterapps program
Waterapps program aims to develop tailor made weather and water forecast information with and for farmers, to support them with planning and managing crop production. This objective will be achieved through an interdisciplinary research framework, which incorporates various emerging scientific and development elements, including: Newly available short-term and seasonal weather forecasts; the emerging fields of citizen science and knowledge co-creation; and the booming ICT technologies including mobile apps. The program will develop tailor-made water availability forecasts using the state-of-the-art global weather forecast products combined with local observations. Furthermore, a knowledge sharing platform will be developed to effectively deliver information and to establish a virtual community of users who actively contribute to, and benefit from the platform. Lastly, Waterapps also aim to support farmers’ adaptive farming practices to better cope with unfavourable weather and water availability conditions.
The Waterapps consortium brings together a diverse range of organisations, including universities, businesses partners including Rabobank, and public authorities. The program is funded by Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) and is coordinated by the Water Systems and Global Change group at Wageningen University. More information about the Waterapps program and how you can benefit from its deliverables is available at www.waterapps.net
About author: Long Hoang (Ph.D) is a postdoc researcher in the Waterapps Project. His work in this project focuses on developing water and climate information services to support sustainable food production in peri-urban delta contexts. More information available at https://www.wur.nl/en/Persons/PL-Long-Hoang-MSc.htm