Managing water in agriculture sustainably

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The rainwater basin of farmer Didier Banderet in Nuvilly FR is a good example of
The rainwater basin of farmer Didier Banderet in Nuvilly FR is a good example of a promising solution in the field of water storage. Photo: BFH-HAFL
The new "Forum for Sustainable Water Management in Agriculture" aims to develop solutions and impart knowledge on how to use water resources in agriculture even more prudently in the face of climate change. The forum was developed by the agricultural advisory center AGRIDEA and the BFH-HAFL School of Agricultural, Forest and Food Sciences.

Weather extremes with dry spells and heavy rainfall are becoming more frequent. Climate change is altering the seasonal distribution of water in Switzerland, as we experienced in the last rainy May or in the hot summer of 2022. The Hydro-CH2018 future scenarios predict more rain in winter and less in summer - a challenge for our farmers to have water available at the right time, in the right place and, if possible, in the right quantity. ’Not only too little, but also too much is problematic for farmers. If the soil is wet, vegetables and berries rot, while potatoes dry out in prolonged heat,’ says Andreas Keiser, lecturer in arable farming and plant breeding at BFH-HAFL. ’A well-planned, sustainable use of water as a resource in agriculture is crucial for the future - in mountain and valley regions.

AGRIDEA and BFH-HAFL have founded the ’Forum for Sustainable Water Management in Agriculture’ in order to prepare Switzerland in good time. ’The expertise and data currently available on water management in agriculture are not sufficient to tackle the challenges of the future. This applies both to irrigation and to measures for retaining and storing water around farms,’ explained Danielle Albiker, co-initiator of the forum and Head of Water at AGRIDEA, at the inaugural meeting.

Developing solutions together

The aims of the new forum are to create a sound knowledge base for Switzerland and to promote exchange between stakeholders - organic farmers, researchers and advisory bodies, industry associations, the public sector and private companies. Recognize conflicts at an early stage and work out constructive solutions, develop good practice and communicate it. ’The forum gives agriculture a voice as a sustainable water user,’ summarizes co-initiator Andreas Keiser. Last but not least, the aim is to show the public how important water availability is for food production and self-sufficiency. This is entirely in line with the federal government’s Agriculture and Food Climate Strategy 2050, which calls for ’climate- and location-adapted domestic agricultural production that contributes at least 50% to the food requirements of the Swiss population’.

Knowledge platform hub

At the heart of the forum is the knowledge platform ’Sustainable water management in agriculture’, which is operated by AGRIDEA. ’We pool all knowledge relating to water and agriculture and make it available on agripedia.ch,’ explains Danielle Albiker. Various working groups of the association are developing promising solutions, for example in the field of irrigation technology or water storage; the latter was clearly explained at the rainwater basin by farmer Didier Banderet at the founding event in Nuvilly FR. Every year, the forum will hold a full-day national conference on a water-related topic at the BFH-HAFL.

Founding of the association - the names

In addition to AGRIDEA and BFH-HAFL, other founding members are Schweizer Hagel, Fenaco, Schweiz. Farmers’ Association, Swisspatat, Agroscope, IAG Grangeneuve. Elected to the ’Sustainable water management in agriculture’ association board on June 25, 2024
  • CÚline Bienz, Swiss Farmers’ Union (SBV);
  • Bettina Koster, Swiss Hail;
  • Christoph Kohli, Fenaco, Inoverde;
  • Michael Schneider, Swisspatat, Association of Swiss Potato Producers (VSKP);
  • Danielle Albiker, AGRIDEA;
  • Andreas Keiser, BFH-HAFL;
  • Pascale Ribordy, IAG Grangeneuve.