Managing water scarcity in European and Chinese cropping systems

It has been a great month for SHui research dissemination by our Israeli SHui partner, ARO. Dr Alon Ben-Gal has been busy speaking at 3 international events related to our WP2.

On 19th October 2020, Dr Ben-Gal was invited to speak at the Israel-Germany workshop on Agricultural Innovation and Adaption to Climate Change about “Irrigation water quality effects on soils, crops and resource use efficiencies”.

At the 2020 ASA-SSSA-CSA Annual International meeting (9th-12th Nov), Dr Ben-Gal was an invited speaker in the “Symposium on Optimizing Water Productivity in Irrigated Agriculture: Insights from Field Studies and Modeling Approaches” on “Considering water quality in approaches to optimize irrigation productivity”.

And finally, Dr Ben-Gal was invited to the 2020 International Conference of Drylands, Deserts and Desertification on 17th November and gave a talk about “Managing irrigation water as a function of its quality”.

Clearly there is ongoing interest in the impacts of irrigation water quality, which several SHui research groups are working on in specific cropping systems. Improving the salinity module of AquaCrop within SHui will help us to simulate the effects of water stress on our crops.

Negating the 8 hour time difference thanks to some creative scheduling by the conference organisers, Professor Ian Dodd (Lancaster Environment Centre) delivered a plenary lecture “Exploiting plant physiology for sustainable development” at the 30th Malaysian Society of Plant Physiology Conference to close the event for 17 November 2020. After considering some fundamental plant physiological mechanisms regulating plant water use, he considered the application of different irrigation techniques within the context of sustainable development. Taking advantage of the SHui slide deck made available to all project participants he explained the project’s ethos, and considered the difficulties of technology transfer within the context of partial rootzone drying (a theme of his recent webinar). The session concluded with several audience questions / observations about the use of PRD in different countries and alternate wetting & drying of rice in Malaysia.


27th-28th October 2020

Braving local lockdowns, Tier 3 restrictions and soaring coronavirus infection rates (Belgium being the highest in EU, 2,801.59 cases per 100,000 people), SHui’s researchers gathered on a new online platform (CSIC’s CONECTA) to discuss recent progress and collaborations with SHui. Despite the challenges of the summer, a number of high points emerged from the discussions:

  • Chinese researchers are now able to conduct face-to-face focus groups with farmers
  • BOKU outlined database visualisation plans to enhance user friendliness
  • Interactions between crop / landscape models with remote sensing inputs
  • Recruitment of a “front-end specialist” by ARO to ensure Decision Support tools are farmer-accessible
  • Recruitment of a new Community Manager to enhance our stakeholder engagement

SHui partners also participated in an interactive survey to identify a way forward for SHui farmer engagement.



Partner CVUT has disseminated SHui and its aims via Czech news outlets, highlighting the importance of this international multidisciplinary project, including CVUT’s role within SHui and its research on modelling erosion and water movement.



Press release links:







On 8th – 9th October, SHui partners at CVUT joined the 6th international COSMOS Workshop in Heidelberg, Germany. Dr David Zumr et al presented ‘Foreseen potential of Cosmic Rays Neutron Sensing for better understanding of catchment runoff dynamic’. The recording of the presentation is available below. 


On 18th November, Dr. Diego Intrigliolo from CEBAS-CSIC will participate in the V Jornada Catedra AgroBank on Mediterranean agriculture and sustainable development goals. This online seminar will take place in Spanish.


Environmental Modelling and Software 131 (2020) 104770


Published by CEBAS-CSIC:

J.M. Ramírez-Cuesta a,*, R.G. Allen b, D.S. Intrigliolo a, A. Kilic c, C.W. Robison b, R. Trezza b, C. Santos d, I.J. Lorite d

a Dpto. Riego, Centro de Edafología y Biología Aplicada del Segura (CEBAS-CSIC), P.O. Box 164, 30100, Murcia, Spain

b University of Idaho, Kimberly Research Center, Kimberly, ID, 83341, USA

c University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Lincoln, NE, 68583-0973, USA

d IFAPA, Centro “Alameda del Obispo”, Alameda del Obispo s/n, Post office box: 3092, 14080, Cordoba, Spain



A novel ArcGIS toolbox that applies the Mapping Evapotranspiration with Internalized Calibration model was developed and tested in a semi-arid environment. The tool, named METRIC-GIS, facilitates the pre-processing operations and the automatic identification of potential calibration and pixels review. The energy balance components obtained from METRIC-GIS were contrasted with those from the original METRIC version (R2 = 1; RMSE = 0 W m−2 or mm day−1 for ETc) Additionally, an irrigated scheme located at southern Spain was considered for assessing Kc variability in the maize fields with METRIC-GIS. The identified spatial variability was mainly due to differences in irrigation regimes, crop management practices, and planting and harvesting dates. This information is critical for developing irrigation advisory strategies that contribute to the area sustainability. The developed tool facilitates data input introduction and reduces computational time by up to 50%, providing a more user-friendly alternative to other existing platforms that use METRIC.

With this webinar Dr.s Plaas and Bergmann introduce the approach of systems dynamics to analyse real world water-related problems. The background of the method is explained and discussed. The challenges and obstacles to solve real world problems are presented with some examples. This is followed by an introduction into how to evaluate and valuate the trade-offs between current agricultural production systems and future ones. The overall seminar ends with discussion points on how to go forward with research and methods.


The room

The code to attend the meeting: 579493

The date and time: 28th of September 2020, 11 o’clock (European time) = 10 am BST


Dr Holger Bergmann is a lecturer at Göttingen University in the Department for Agricultural Economics and Rural Development.

Dr Elke Plaas is a research fellow at Göttingen University in the Centre for Biodiversity and Sustainable Land Use and at the Department for Agricultural Economics and Rural Development. Dr. Plaas’ main areas of work are: socio-economic assessment of soil biodiversity, agricultural policy and environmental economic issues in CEEC and China, agricultural markets, individual farm analysis of farms, bioenergy and rural development.

The research activities in the first half of 2020 were greatly affected by COVID-19 in China. Since May, with the epidemic under control, research activities were released gradually.

● Xun Wu designed a fourth-year drip irrigation experiment for cotton in Xinjiang for calibration of AquaCrop. Jianchu Shi organized a smart irrigation demonstration project, working with an agricultural company in Shawan XinJiang. They are both progressing and expected to end in mid-October.

● Meanwhile, Tianshu Wang and Yanqi Xu designed a greenhouse soil column experiment to explore the hysteresis effects of combined water and salinity stress on root water uptake and transpiration of winter wheat and its quantitative characterization. The experiment included 3 water, 3 fertilizer and 3 salt levels.

● In addition, Xun Wu and Ting Zhang are calibrating AquaCrop based on the data of winter wheat previously obtained in Beijing. Further plan is to evaluate the performance of AquaCrop in simulating canopy cover, soil water, evapotranspiration, yield, and water productivity of winter wheat planted in weighing lysimeters.

Thus, progress is still being made in the project.


Measurement of gas exchange of cotton in the field using a portable photosynthesis apparatus (Li-6400, Li-Cor, USA).

Instead of congregating in “the frying pan of Europe” (aka Sevilla, Spain), several SHui researchers virtually attended the European Society of Agronomy’s biennial meeting (1 to 4 September 2020 - ). Delivered via Zoom, with a total of 270 participants, the technology mostly held up and allowed interactions that otherwise would have been cancelled due to covid-19.

Prof Elias Ferreres (UCO, IAS-CSIC) gave the opening plenary address on Sustainable water resource management. He focused on the relationships between water use and food production and the sustainability of water-limited agriculture, including topics such as crop productivity as affected by water, water management at different scales, agriculture-environment interactions, soil and water conservation, irrigation water management, deficit irrigation strategies, and efficient use of limited water supplies in drought situations.

Although relatively few SHui partners are growing soybean, and it is unlikely to be exposed to cold temperatures in Mediterranean regions, European soybean production is constrained by cold temperatures as the crop is often planted into cold soils, particularly in northern latitudes. Professor Ian Dodd (ULANC) presented some preliminary findings demonstrating the importance of plant hydraulics in regulating leaf expansion (vital for canopy establishment) and plant hormones in regulating leaf gas exchange when this crop is grown at 14 degrees Celsius.

Tomas Roquette Tenreiro (IAS-CSIC) presented a poster on the field work undertaken at Cordoba over this season, entitled “From point to field scale – uncertainties associated with the upscaling of modelling for field heterogeneity assessment”. This work is part of working package 2.1 experimental tasks, in which the group of Córdoba has been assessing the spatial heterogeneity of some local commercial cereal fields by combining field observations with spatial data and simulation trials with AquaCrop. The preliminary results reveal promising potential for the upscaling of different yield components simulation, such as plant biomass and the harvest index, seen as a possible strategy for distributing yield gap analysis through space and time.