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Impact of drought on agriculture: consequences and solutions

Impact of drought on agriculture: consequences and solutions

The impact of drought on agriculture is having serious consequences worldwide. It affects agricultural production and has a significant economic and social impact.

Droughts have become increasingly frequent and severe, posing a threat to people’s food security and farmers’ livelihoods.

The causes of droughts are both natural and related to human activities. To mitigate this impact, new technologies are being implemented, along with crop diversification, which favor efficient use of water resources. The need for effective solutions is becoming increasingly urgent.

Creative and innovative approaches to help farmers cope with the difficulties posed by drought are being adopted in most cases with success. From systems for optimizing water use with poly-irrigation to crop protection methods with agricultural plastics and water monitoring techniques.

In this article we will look at the challenges the agricultural sector is facing, the consequences of droughts, and explore potential solutions to combat their impact.

Impact of drought on agricultural production

The impact of drought on agriculture is noteworthy, and as mentioned on the website of the National Drought Mitigation Center, it creates several detrimental consequences for crops and for those who base their economy and livelihood on it.

The consequences can be evidenced both in terms of individual crops and agricultural production as a whole. This not only affects farmers’ source of revenue but also jeopardizes food security on a larger scale.

Lack of water due to drought directly harms the development and growth of agricultural crops, preventing plants from obtaining the nutrients necessary for optimal growth and resulting in a decrease in their quality and yield.

Drought also intensifies water stress in crops. This can lead to increased susceptibility to disease, reduced resistance to pests, and a general weakening of crop structure.

Regarding pest control, we recommend our webinar on new biological control strategies.

Therefore, water scarcity caused by drought directly affects agricultural production as a whole and has a negative effect on irrigation systems, as the amount of water available to irrigate crops is limited.

This lack of water supply can even lead to restrictions on irrigation water use, further limiting farmers’ ability to keep their crops properly hydrated.

 

Crops not properly hydrated. Photo by Pawel Czerwinski on Unsplash

Crops not properly hydrated. Photo by Pawel Czerwinski on Unsplash

 

Causes of drought in agriculture

The impact of drought on agriculture is increasing every year. Identifying the causes is the first step in finding and implementing effective solutions to counteract its consequences.

In this sense, drought in agriculture can be caused by different factors, both of natural origin and as a result of human activities.

Natural factors leading to drought

Natural factors that trigger drought in agriculture include lack of rainfall, decreased aquifer or groundwater recharge, and changing weather patterns.

As rainfall decreases, the flows of rivers and water levels in reservoirs decrease as well. This makes it difficult to access the water needed to irrigate crops.

These phenomena are mainly associated with climate change, which brings with it the alteration of seasonal cycles and an increase in the frequency and intensity of extreme weather conditions, such as prolonged droughts.

Human activities and their impact on agricultural drought

On the other hand, human activities also contribute to the development of drought in agriculture. Overexploitation of water resources, such as the excessive extraction of water from rivers and groundwater for agricultural, industrial, and domestic use, leads to a shortage of water available for crops.

In addition, deforestation, and soil degradation, caused by unsustainable agricultural practices, increase the vulnerability of ecosystems to water stress. These phenomena reduce the soil’s water retention capacity and increase evaporation, thus aggravating the effects of drought on agriculture.

Another important human factor is the change in land use, such as the transformation of agricultural areas into urban or industrial ones.

This implies the loss of arable land and a decrease in agricultural land. This exacerbates dependence on the remaining areas and increases pressure on available water resources.

4 Measures to mitigate the impact of the drought on agriculture

In this scenario, the question to be asked is how to prevent drought in agriculture and successfully overcome the challenge posed by this situation. To this end, it is essential to implement creative and effective measures to mitigate its impact.

We will now review three key aspects that should be considered:

1. Efficient use of water resources in agriculture

This is the first and most important challenge to be faced to reduce the negative consequences and impact of drought on agriculture. Although it may seem obvious, wasting available water resources is often disregarded.

Thus, it is necessary and imperative to optimize the use of water in agriculture, avoiding any waste. To achieve this, it is essential to implement efficient irrigation practices, such as drip irrigation, poly-irrigation through the use of plastic tubes/pipes as we already mentioned, or localized irrigation against traditional methods of field flooding or overhead sprinkler.

These systems make it possible to supply the right amount of water needed for crop growth, minimizing losses due to evaporation or runoff, thus reducing the effects of drought on agriculture.

 

Poly-irrigation through the use of plastic tubes or pipes

Poly-irrigation through the use of plastic tubes or pipes

 

2. Smart irrigation technologies

Second, technology must play a crucial role in mitigating the impact of drought on agriculture.

Smart irrigation systems, such as irrigation automation, or fertigation, through sensors and irrigation scheduling based on the needs of each crop allow to optimize water use and ensure adequate irrigation at all times.

Besides, the use of real-time information and communication systems helps to monitor and control irrigation more accurately and efficiently.

We recommend you read our article on how to optimize water use in agriculture through the recovery of wastewater by using geomembranes for the construction of reservoirs.

3. Crop protection for drought control

Along the same lines as the previous point, the protection of crops with the use of high tunnels, greenhouses, and the use of mulching, among others, is essential to maintain their health and productivity, as well as the overall stability of agricultural systems, and reduce the impact of drought on agriculture.

This integrated approach to crop protection not only strengthens the resilience of agricultural activities in dry regions but also contributes to the food security and economic stability of the area.

For more information on crop protection strategies, you can download our free eBook on how crop protection helps the fight against drought.

 

Crop protection for drought control

Crop protection for drought control

 

4. Crop diversification and water stress-resistant species

Finally, a key strategy to cope with drought is to promote crop diversification and the use of plant species adapted to water stress conditions.

The reason behind this is that these plants are more resilient to water scarcity and use the resources more efficiently.

Besides, promoting sustainable agricultural practices, such as crop rotation and the implementation of soil conservation techniques is essential. These practices contribute to improving water use efficiency and reducing the vulnerability of agricultural systems to drought.

Economic and social impact on agriculture

The effect of drought on agricultural production leads to significant economic losses. Water shortages reduce crop productivity, lowering yields, and making farmers less profitable.

In addition, drought increases production costs, as farmers must invest in more expensive irrigation methods and measures to protect their crops from extreme conditions.

This scenario of economic losses is further amplified if we consider international markets. Thus, the economic impact of the drought on agriculture is significant not only at the local level but also at the global level.

As indicated in this article by McKinsey & Company, the decline in agricultural production due to drought can translate into substantially higher food prices, affecting the global economy and food security.

On the other hand, the impact of drought on agriculture also generates social and labor problems that negatively affect rural communities.

The decrease in agricultural production and economic losses result in a reduction in employment in the industry. This directly affects farmers and farm workers, leading to increased unemployment and decreased incomes in these communities.

In addition, drought in agriculture can translate into the migration of farmers and their families to urban areas in search of better opportunities, generating a demographic imbalance in rural areas, as well as problems and difficulties in terms of socioeconomic development.

Similarly, agricultural drought can increase food insecurity in rural communities. The lack of agricultural production affects the availability of food, putting at risk the nutrition and health of people who depend on agriculture for their livelihoods.

In short, the impact of drought on agriculture causes the following:

  • Reduction in agricultural production and economic income in the industry
  • Substantial increase in food prices
  • Unemployment in the agricultural sector and rural communities
  • Migration of farmers to urban areas
  • Increased food insecurity in rural communities
Increase in food prices. Photo by Anne Preble on Unsplash

Increase in food prices. Photo by Anne Preble on Unsplash

 

Conclusion: Impact of drought on agriculture

As we have seen, the impact of drought on agriculture is a substantial and serious problem that poses numerous challenges for farmers, and both local and global food supplies.

It is essential to take measures to address these problems and find sustainable solutions to optimize water use in agriculture, especially in the face of climate change.

Water scarcity and its adverse effects on crop production have in-depth implications for both the economy and the environment. However, by optimizing water use through techniques such as crop monitoring, smart irrigation, poly-irrigation, or the use of agricultural plastics, it is possible to mitigate the effects of drought on agriculture and ensure sustainable farming practices.

The priority today must be the conservation of water resources and their efficient and responsible use, in pursuit of a more resilient and sustainable agricultural sector.

Sources:

Fruit Growers Supplyβ€―Company. (January 11, 2022). Drought Effects on Agriculture & How to Adjust. Retrieved from: https://fruitgrowers.com/drought-effects-on-agriculture-how-to-adjust/

Gov.bc.ca. (2020). Drought in agriculture. Retrieved from: https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/industry/agriculture-seafood/agricultural-land-and-environment/water/drought-in-agriculture

Grain SA. (February 2020). The effects of drought on agriculture. Retrieved from: https://www.grainsa.co.za/the-effects-of-drought-on-agriculture

McKinsey & Company. (November 18, 2022). Making crops more resilient to drought risk. Retrieved from: https://www.mckinsey.com/industries/agriculture/our-insights/making-crops-more-resilient-to-drought-risk

National Drought Mitigation Center. (2021). How Does Drought Affect Our Lives? Retrieved from: https://drought.unl.edu/Education/DroughtforKids/DroughtEffects.aspx

Preventionweb.net. (July 13, 2022). Drought: clear impacts on global agricultural production. Retrieved from: https://www.preventionweb.net/news/drought-clear-impacts-global-agricultural-production

 

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