Dry weather calls for smart water management

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One of the driest spring’s on record has threatened crop quality in the most arid parts of Europe.

The UK saw as little as half of the rainfall expected for April, and as a result, farmers are being urged to consider smarter water management practices to future-proof against increasingly volatile weather patterns.

Using a water conservation agent, such as H2Flo from ICL, could help to save water, according to a recent trial conducted on Lower Hope Fruit Farm in Herefordshire, UK.

Emily Livesey, fruit manager at the farm, looks after over 20 cherry varieties, across 33 hectares, which intentionally ripen at different times, to help prolong the traditionally short season.

H2Flo was trialled on three hectares of the crop, against an untreated control, and every week H2Flo was applied though the irrigation system, with the fertiliser application.

When the plant is developing fruit, it’s a crucial time for optimising water uptake by the tree. Emily was pleased with the results, which demonstrated increased water permeability and uptake at a key time of the plant growth cycle.

“When looking at the data from the moisture probes, we could see that the product spread the water evenly throughout the soil profile, enabling better uptake from the root systems,” she says.

The trial demonstrated that the cherry trees removed water at every level of the soil and water reached a depth of 40cm when treated with H2Flo, but the ‘control’ crop with just water applied only, allowed uptake down to the 20cm level, and less activity was seen in terms of water uptake at different depths.

“H2Flo allowed the water to penetrate the soil further, which means there’s potential for less usage, helping us to conserve water, and although we have our own reservoir on site, we’re always looking for more sustainable ways to work.

“We’re open to the possibility of conducting further study into these products and the affects they have on water usage,” adds Emily.

H2Flo is an unique blend of surfactants especially designed to move water and fertilizers quickly and efficiently through different types of soil. The product can be applied as an initial wetter and also during the normal irrigation cycle where it will also aid the movement of fertilizers throughout the soil therefore balancing the EC levels. H2Flo also prevents the hardening of water repellent deposits.“Surfactants enlarge the spread of water by increasing the speed at which the molecules penetrate the soil, allowing water to travel below the first five centimetres of the surface faster than normal,” explains Scott Garnett, ICL senior agronomist.