Global Warming Effects on Irrigation Development and Crop Production: A World-Wide View


Despite the enormous advances in our ability to understand, interpret and ultimately manage the natural world, we have reached the 21st century in awesome ignorance of what is likely to unfold in terms of both the natural changes and the human activities that affect the environment and the responses of the Earth to those stimuli. One certain fact is that the planet will be subjected to pressures hitherto unprecedented in its recent evolutionary history. The “tomorrow’s world” will not simply be an inflated version of the “today’s world”, with more people, more energy consumption and more industry, rather it will be qualitatively different from today in at least three important respects. First, new technology will transform the relationship between man and the natural world. An example is the gradual transition from agriculture that is heavily dependent on chemicals to one that is essentially biologically intensive through the application of bio-technologies. Consequently, the release of bio-engineered organisms is likely to pose new kinds of risks if the development and use of such organisms are not carefully controlled. Second, society will be moving beyond the era of localized environmental problems. What were once local incidents of natural resource impairment shared throughout a common watershed or basin, now involve many neighboring countries. What were once acute, short-lived episodes of reversible damage now affect many generations. What were once straightforward questions of conservation versus development now reflect more complex linkages. The third major change refers to climate variations. It is nowadays widely accepted that the increasing concentration of the so-called greenhouse gases in the atmosphere is altering the Earth’s radiation balance and causing the temperature to rise. This process in turn provides the context for a chain of events which leads to changes in the different components of the hydrological cycle, such as evapotranspiration rate, intensity and frequency of precipitation, river flows, soil moisture and groundwater recharge. Mankind is expected to respond to these effects by taking adaptive measures including changing patterns of land use, adopting new strategies for soil and water management and looking for non-conventional water resources (e.g. saline/brackish waters, desalinated water, and treated wastewater). All these problems will become more pronounced in the years to come, as society enters an era of increasingly complex paths towards the global economy. In this context, engineers and decision-makers need to systematically review planning principles, design criteria, operating rules, contingency plans and management policies for new infra-structures. In relation to these issues and based on available information, this report gives an overview of current and future (time horizon 2025) irrigation and food production development around the world. Moreover, the paper analyses the results of the most recent and advanced General Circulation Models for assessing the hydrological impacts of climate variability on crop requirements, water availability and the planning and design process of irrigation systems. Finally, a five-step planning and design procedure is proposed that is able to integrate, within the development process, the hydrological consequences of climate change. For researchers interested in irrigation and drainage and in crop production under changing climate conditions, references have been included, under developments in irrigation section on Page 3. Many climate action plans developed by few cities, states and various countries are cited for policy makers to follow or to make a note off. Few citations are also included in the end to educate every one of us, who are not familiar with the scientific work of our colleagues, related to global warming. The colleagues are from different areas, physics, mathematics, agricultural engineering, crop scientists and policy makers in United Nations. Most of the citation links do open, when you click on them. If it does not, copy and paste the link on any web browsers.

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De Wrachien, D. and Goli, M. (2015) Global Warming Effects on Irrigation Development and Crop Production: A World-Wide View. Agricultural Sciences, 6, 734-747. doi: 10.4236/as.2015.67071.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


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