By Dana Ludvik
The Robert B. Daugherty Water for Food Global Institute was honored to represent the University of Nebraska at the world’s foremost irrigation forum in Thailand last month, a significant opportunity to make new connections and showcase Nebraska’s strong irrigation programs.
The 2nd annual World Irrigation Forum (WIF2) was hosted by the Thai National Committee on Irrigation and Drainage in Chiang Mai, Nov. 6-12. This year’s event, “Water Management in a Changing World: Role of Irrigation in Sustainable Food Production,” included experts, policymakers, researchers, consultants, manufacturers, contractors, academics, farmers and development professionals through various institutions. WIF2 is the largest business event related to agriculture, water and the environment, and draws people from all of the world seeking to learn about the latest research, products and services associated with irrigation and drainage.
“It is great to have an international presence for the second time at the World Irrigation Forum,” said Director of Research Christopher Neale, one of the side event chairs. “It provides a lot of visibility to the institute and the University of Nebraska, particularly as one of the few U.S. academic institutions present.”
WFI Executive Director Peter McCornick was invited to deliver a keynote presentation, “Securing Water & Food: Opportunities in Irrigation.” WFI also convened two side events, “SE7 GeoSmart Technologies for Sustainable Irrigation and Drainage,” co-sponsored with Geospatial Media and “SE8 Key and Smart Technologies for Irrigation and Drainage to Reduce Poverty and Hunger.”
The side events included presentations by McCornick, Neale, University of Nebraska-Lincoln irrigation engineer and WFI Faculty Fellow Derek Heeren and UNESCO-IHE water resources analyst and remote sensing specialist and WFI Global Fellow Wim Bastiaanssen.
Neale co-chaired the SE7 panel discussion and gave a presentation on using precision irrigation to manage high value crops. The panel recommended the following at the end of the session:
- There is a need for more technology supporting policies, acts and legislation in many countries to make the use of geospatial technologies more flexible.
- There is a need to develop more innovative and farmer friendly technologies to be used by the stakeholders on the ground.
- There is a need for conservation management and irrigation practices that enhance productivity and increase efficiency and improve water management.
- There is a need to train manpower to better understand and maximize the use of these technologies.
During the SE8 session, Neale served as the moderator; Bastiaanssen described the use of a new version of his SEBAL model for evapotranspiration and water productivity estimates; McCornick provided remarks on scaling-up smallholder irrigation and Heeren gave a presentation highlighting the University of Nebraska’s variable rate irrigation research. The panel recommended the following at the end of the session:
- Changes to the rules of operation for UAV’s will bring more flexibility to their use for agricultural monitoring. Though limited to small scales, the technology and applications are developing fast.
- Satellite and UAV evapotranspiration estimation models need to be verified with eddy covariance systems and other agricultural meteorology data on the ground.
- Future global ET products will be useful for tracking irrigation water at system and basin scales.
- Large-scale systems for smallholders pose development and operational challenges that can be overcome with extensive organization and training activities.
- Scaling agricultural water management solutions requires a multi-tier stakeholder effort.
The event offered participants a global perspective on the state of irrigation, said Heeren.
“It was a privilege to meet people from all over the world,” said Heeren. “It was especially helpful to meet more of the faculty and students from UNESCO-IHE with whom we have a partnership.”
As a result of WFI’s participation in the forum, WFI gained a new partner in Geospatial Media, made several new connections with global peers and continued project discussions with Jain Irrigation Systems of India. For more information on the forum, visit http://www.worldirrigationforum.net/wif2.