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Scientists from the Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh (UK) have developed a cloud-based micro-irrigation system, which when tested on a farm in south India helped cut water use and doubled crop yield. The system combines a highly localised weather forecast with local know-how on irrigation needs and soil conditions. Local farmers’ knowledge on irrigation and soil conditions for each of these crops were scheduled on the cloud-based system, an official statement said. Trials were conducted under the Innovate UK-funded Smart Control of Rural Renewable Energy and Storage (SCORRES) project. “We tested eight crops with our precision irrigation system,” said Eddie Owens, director of Heriot-Watt University’s Energy Academy. “The results of our initial trials were extremely encouraging. Our irrigation system reduced water and energy use by up to 80 per cent and in some of the trials, the crop yield doubled, enabling farmers to grow bigger vegetables and fruits, faster,” Owens added. At the trial farm in Tamil Nadu, eight vegetable crops were grown using the precision irrigation system.
These included okra, lettuce, basil, pumpkin, corn and long beans.The next step would be to expand the trial across India and into China, Owens added. “Existing irrigation control systems in India are typically manual, or rely on time clocks that have a lack of monitoring oversight…. This project removes the need for costly hardware, and creates a more affordable, cloud-based solution for smart irrigation,” Martin Scherfler from Auroville Consulting, a SCORRES partner that oversaw the installation of the irrigation, said. Agriculture accounts for 90 per cent of India’s freshwater usage. Fifty-four per cent of India faces extremely high water stress.