Agriculture and Environment: Cotton | WWF

Agriculture and Environment: Cotton

Better Management Practices: Reduce Water Use

In general, improved irrigation systems and water management could reduce water losses to 15% or less from current levels of 60% on average (Ait Kadi 1993, as cited in Kirda 1999). In Israel, for example, water shortages have led to the development of very efficient drip irrigation systems.

Significant difference in water used

In such production systems, the total water used to produce a kilogram of cotton is far less than the 7,000 to 29,000 litres of water required to produce a kilogram of cotton with conventional means.

High yields drip irrigation systems

Furthermore, drip irrigation systems produce the highest cotton yields of any cotton production systems in the world. Today, however, only 0.7% of irrigated areas globally use drip technology because of its high costs (Soth 1999).

Improved cultivation techniques also reduce water use. For example, conservation tillage reduces overall water use because crop residues are left on top of the soil, allowing them to act as water-conserving mulch.


Effective cultivation techniques

In Brazil a number of producers report that corn is grown in rotation with cotton and other crops because it provides more mulch. Similarly, pasture grasses are planted at the same time as corn, between the rows, to provide more biomass that will act as mulch and through their root systems help to build up the organic matter in the soil.

Careful crop rotations reduce the need for pesticides and fungicides in addition to reducing water use.

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