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Agricultural water research project receives large EU grant

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Using water wisely will be increasingly important in the future, particularly within agricultural production. The agricultural water management research project WATERAGRI, which is coordinated by the Faculty of Engineering at Lund University in Sweden, has been awarded SEK 74 million from the EU’s Horizon 2020 programme with the aim to improve agricultural water management and nutrient recovery from waste streams over the next four years.

“The goal is to reintroduce and develop sustainable solutions for water retention and nutrient recycling to enable agricultural production that can sustain both a growing population and cope with the future climate change challenges.”, says Miklas Scholz, Professor of Water Resources Engineering at Lund University and coordinator of WATERAGRI.

A growing population and an increasingly uncertain supply of water in a future climate means that agriculture will face significant challenges. Ensuring a sufficient supply of water and nutrients and, at the same time, carrying out sustainable agriculture is likely to become increasingly important in coming years.

The project aims for a deeper and more detailed understanding of the hydrological processes shaping collective water resources management in Europe. It is partly about further developing traditional drainage and irrigation solutions, and partly about recreating nature-based solutions such as wetlands, bio-inspired drainage systems and sustainable flood retention basins that retain water with the aim to improve the retention of both water and nutrients.

“There is currently a lack of affordable and easy-to-implement technological solutions in agriculture that work in practice. New technologies must be tested by us to be able to adapt to climate change and its impact on ecosystems.”, says Miklas Scholz.

The project will evaluate the specific water and nutrient retention needs within the agricultural sector and, based on this, develop a set of easy-to-implement technologies, test them in the field and come up with proposals for how they can be implemented in a financially sustainable way, creating also new business opportunities.

WATERAGRI will also work on developing novel technologies supported by data collection, which could help real-life decision-making. One example of this is the optimisation of irrigation scheduling in fields.

A serious game will also be developed. “It will simulate and quantify the impacts of an individual farmer’s decision when it comes to technical, economic and environmental aspects of water management.”, explains Miklas Scholz.

The project team will carry out ten international case studies with a focus on different biogeographical regions around Europe including Sweden. Here, they will test the different technologies and other innovations that are developed for different kinds of land use – everything from grass production and pasture to both organic and conventional farming.

“The WATERAGRI project is about researching the new frontiers in agricultural water resources management to improve both agricultural production and the local ecosystems. We aim to considerably improve agricultural water management over the coming four years and beyond.”, says Miklas Scholz.

The WATERAGRI consortium consists of 23 partners from twelve European countries and is led by Lund University. The project is scheduled to start in May 2020 and will run for four years.

Read more about the project on the LTH website

Miklas Scholz

miklas [dot] scholz [at] tvrl [dot] lth [dot] se
+46 703435270