Skip main navigation

£199.99 £139.99 for one year of Unlimited learning. Offer ends on 28 February 2023 at 23:59 (UTC). T&Cs apply

Find out more

Preserving water through irrigation

I’m Dr. Antje Fiebig from Lancaster Environment Centre. I’m a research associate here. And I focus on irrigation of crops. One of the most important parts of life in the soil is actually the plant. The plant receives a lot from the soil. It receives water, nutrients, but also stability. At the Lancaster Environment Centre, we are very concerned about the water. We want to get the balance right between giving the plants enough water, but not wasting it. There are many different ways of irrigating your plants. Most growers actually just stick their finger into the soil to see how wet it is. The grower’s experience is very valuable, but sometimes it is not very precise.
So there are some different ways of irrigating your plants precisely. We can do this by first finding out the well-drained capacity. So we have a plant in the soil, and we give it as much water so that it drains, so that the water comes out of the pot. After that has happened, we put it on the scale. And the weight it has at that point is the well-drained capacity. And whenever we water our plant, we want to come back to that weight.
So for example, if a plant has a well-drained capacity of six hundred grams, and we put it on the scale and it weighs only 550 gram, we will give it 50 grams of water to make sure that it’s well-drained again. This is a scientifically very accurate method. But to be really honest with you, nobody does this. You can’t do this in a big scale greenhouse. So there’s a different way of irrigating your plants precisely. And this is called automatic irrigation. So we can manage the irrigation according to the data we get. So if the soil moisture is below a certain point, the irrigation will get switched on.
If the soil moisture is above a certain point, the irrigation will get switched off. This is a great system. It is very accurate because the sensors basically measure the well-drained capacity. So the sensors will know when the plants need, for example, these 50 grams of water. It also takes into account the stadium of the plants, which growth stadium they are in. it also takes into account the soil type that you use, or how the temperature is, or how much rainfall you have. All of these things will affect the well-drained capacity. But you do not need to worry, in this case, as the soil moisture sensor automatically picks this up.
Our goal is to be careful with how much water we give to the plant, and yet achieve a high yield. As you have seen, there are different irrigation strategies. You can water your plants according to your experience. You can do it according to how much weight they’ve lost or according to the soil moisture. The last one might be the best one, as it is very efficient, but at the same time also very precise. And we are not wasting any water. So to sum this up, plants are a very important aspect of life in the soil. They receive a lot from the soil. They receive water, and nutrients, and stability.
However, we need to be careful with how much water we give to the plants, as it’s a scarce resource.

Plants are a very important part of life in the soil and soil is essential for the majority of plants.

Plants impact on soils in a wide variety of ways. One of the most important is by using water stored in soil. Given we get so much of food from soil, this is really important for sustainable agriculture.

In this short video Dr Antje Fiebig, a former Lancaster University PhD student, describes her research on plants and preserving water through irrigation.

This article is from the free online

Soil Science: Exploring the World Beneath our Feet

Created by
FutureLearn - Learning For Life

Our purpose is to transform access to education.

We offer a diverse selection of courses from leading universities and cultural institutions from around the world. These are delivered one step at a time, and are accessible on mobile, tablet and desktop, so you can fit learning around your life.

We believe learning should be an enjoyable, social experience, so our courses offer the opportunity to discuss what you’re learning with others as you go, helping you make fresh discoveries and form new ideas.
You can unlock new opportunities with unlimited access to hundreds of online short courses for a year by subscribing to our Unlimited package. Build your knowledge with top universities and organisations.

Learn more about how FutureLearn is transforming access to education