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Technology

Omnia invests in water

By Rod Humphris - Chief Executive Officer: Omnia Group

Omnia Fertilizer recently held an Agronomist Conference at Hartbeespoort where several experts in the field of water addressed our agronomists. Mr. Rod Humphris explained why Omnia is committed to investing in water.

Why water?

Statistics tell us that 700 million people in 43 countries worldwide are currently suffering from water scarcity. Sub-Saharan Africa has the largest number of water-stressed countries in any continent (Figure 1).

It is estimated that by 2025 (just over 10 years from now), 1.8 billion people will be living in regions with absolute water scarcity, and two-thirds of the world's population could be living under water stressed conditions.

With the existing climate change scenario, almost half of the world's population will be living in areas of high water stress by 2030, including between 75 million and 250 million people in Africa. In addition, water scarcity in some arid and semi-arid places will displace between 24 million and 700 million people.

Growing resource constraints

As the world's population grows, more pressure is put on the available water resources. Prosperity in certain parts of the world has caused people to change their diets from a cereal-based one, to one that is higher in meat consumption. This will not only put pressure on farmers to produce more food, but will also have a huge impact on the available water.

Climate change impacts

Three significant climate trends have recently been observed:

  • the average temperature is increasing;
  • the average number of days with a high dew point appears to be increasing; and
  • the character of precipitation is changing.

These changing weather patterns will impact crop production in four primary ways. Firstly, the long-term changes in average temperatures and precipitation patterns may affect the types of crops cultivated in specific areas. Secondly, these changes can lead to an increase in pests and invasive species. Acute losses can also be expected from more frequent and intense weather extremes, such as floods and droughts. Lastly, the impacts of runoff, soil erosion and reduced infiltration from the increased intensity of storm events can negatively affect crop production.

Implications for farmers

Due to the pressure on this precious resource, government will be looking at stricter water laws governing the use of available water.

When a resource is in short supply, the government has a responsibility to protect and regulate it. The use of both underground and surface water will be restricted. Users of water will continue to apply for licenses and stricter quotas will be introduced. Residential water will get first priority, with industry second. This will have an effect on farms as there are more opportunities in agriculture to save water. This will ultimately lead to farmers having to get by with less water.

Omnia's investment

Due to Omnia's continued commitment to South African agriculture, the company has taken the first step in becoming experts in water use in crop production. There are new technologies in water efficiencies that need to be understood. These include new genetics, new irrigation technologies and better water management.

Omnia's Research and Development Division focuses on research into water use efficiencies so that our agronomists can help their clients to optimise their water usage. They will be able to advise farmers when to plant, when to reduce plant and when not to plant at all.

We need our clients to continue farming for years to come and to grow more with less water. Farmers need to know how much water they use (kg produced per kg water). They need to be able to manage their water effectively in order to squeeze every last bit of crop out of the very last drop of water. And with our focus on innovation, the use of science and technology and our commitment to adding value on the farm, we will help them achieve this.