Managing water scarcity in European and Chinese cropping systems

12th March – Newton Rigg, Penrith, UK

On 12th March, the Eden River’s Trust organised an event for farmers in the Eden river catchment to present the new sward lifter and inform them of the benefits and opportunities it offers.



Throughout the day, farmers and agricultural students attended the event to see the brand new sward lifter. Members of the SHui Lancaster University team were on site to discuss water and soil-based research on soil compaction alleviation and mitigation and shared future research plans with attendees.

Members of Carrs Billington Agriculture Ltd. and Natural England Catchment Sensitive Farming also attended and provided farmers with technical and Countryside Stewardship (CS) Scheme support, respectively.

The sward lifter has a hydraulic fan-driven seed drill attached, which allows sowing cover/catch crops and other seeds, and is now available for Eden’s farmers to use!




Partner UCO has disseminated SHui and its aims via Spanish local (Ahora Cordoba), national (Europa Press) and specialised (Mercacei, Profesional Hoy, Olimerca, Agronews Castilla y Leon) news outlets, highlighting the importance of a China-EU partnership. UCO’s role within SHui and its research on modelling crop performance in response to available water was also disseminated.





3rd – 5th February 2020

Margarita Garcia-Vila, Tomas Roquette Tenreiro and Elias Fereres, SHui partners at UCO and CSIC, presented a poster titled ‘Could crop irrigation requirements be reduced under future climate scenarios?’ at the iCROPM2020 ‘Crop modelling for the future’, Second International Crop Modelling Symposium in Montpellier (France).


International Soil and Water Conservation Research, 2020,


José A. Gómeza, Alon Ben-Galb, Juan J. Alarcónc, Gabrielle De Lannoyd, Shannon de Roosd, Tomáš Dostále, Elias Fereresf, Diego S. Intriglioloc, Josef Krásae, Andreas Klikg, Gunther Liebhardg, Reinhard Nolzg, Aviva Peetersh, Elke Plaasi, John N. Quintonj, Miao Ruik, Peter Straussl, Xu Weifengk, Zhiqiang Zhangm, Funing Zhongn, David Zumre, Ian C. Doddj


a Institute for Sustainable Agriculture, IAS, CSIC, Avda Menendez Pidal S/N, Cordoba, Spain

b Agricultural Research Organization, Gilat Research Center, Israel

c Centro de Edafología y Biología Aplicada Del Segura (CSIC), Dept. Riego, Murcia, Spain

d Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, KU Leuven, Heverlee, Belgium

e Czech Technical University in Prague, Faculty of Civil Engineering. CVUT, Prague, Czech Republic

f Agronomy Department, University of Cordoba, Cordoba, Spain

g University of Agricultural Sciences Vienna (BOKU), Vienna, Austria

h TerraVision Lab, Midreshet Ben-Gurion, Israel

I Georg-August-Universität Göttingen, Germany

j Centre for Sustainable Agriculture, Lancaster Environment Centre, Lancaster University, UK

k Center for Plant Water-Use and Nutrition Regulation and College of Life Sciences, Joint International Research Laboratory of Water and Nutrient in Crops, Fujian Agriculture and Forestry University, Fuzhou, China

l Institute for Land and Water Management Research, Federal Agency for Water Management, Petzenkirchen, Austria

m College of Soil and Water Conservation, Beijing Forestry University, Beijing, China

n College of Economics and Management, Nanjing Agricultural University, NAU, Nanjing, China



This article outlines the major scientific objectives of the SHui project that seeks to optimize soil and water use in agricultural systems in the EU and China, by considering major current scientific challenges in this area. SHui (for Soil Hydrology research platform underpinning innovation to manage water scarcity in European and Chinese cropping systems) is large cooperative project that aims to provide significant advances through transdisciplinary research at multiple scales (plot, field, catchment and region). This paper explains our research platform of long-term experiments established at plot scale, approaches taken to integrate crop and hydrological models at field scale; coupled crop models and satellite-based observations at regional scales; decision support systems for specific farming situations; and the integration of these technologies to provide policy recommendations through socio-economic analysis of the impact of soil and water saving technologies. It also outlines the training of stakeholders to develop a basic common curriculum despite the subject being distributed across different disciplines and professions. As such, this article provides a review of major challenges for improving soil and water use in EU and China as well as information about the potential to access information made available by SHui, and to allow others to engage with the project.



On the 4th of December, a focus group with eleven olive and wine grape farmers from all over Israel took place at the Gilat Research Center (Be’er Sheva) of the Agricultural Research Organization (Volcani) under the guidance of the team of Göttingen University (WP 5). The topic during the discussion was water management under the current situation as well as future developments.

The Israel working group with Dr. Alon Ben Gal, Dr. Arnon Dag, Dr. Yishai Netzer and Dr. Aviva Peeters helped with the organization of the group, invited farmers, led the discussion and helped with the translations.


From Nov. 20th to Nov. 21st 2019 a SHui focus group met in Austria to assess the situation of agriculture in selected areas representing agriculture in Eastern Austria and to discuss recent developments with farmers. The assessment was led by Dr. Plaas from Göttingen University (WP 5) and supported by partners from the Austrian working group, Dr. Rosner and Mr. Liebhard (WP1 team led by Prof. Klik from BOKU University and Dr. Strauß from the Austrian Federal Agency for Water Management).



Dr. Rosner, managing director for agricultural research in Lower Austria, organised meetings at four agricultural schools. Each school has a different focus of research fields, depending on local conditions for farming. Meetings were held at LFS Mistelbach (agricultural marketing, oenology), LFS Hollabrunn (crop production), LFS Pyhra (dairy farming, food technology), and LFS Tulln (energy production, landscape conservation).

Each discussion group consisted of 6-12 farmers who discussed challenges and changes in agriculture facing water scarcity and recent developments in soil tillage and protection. The choice of locations showed the diverse agricultural challenges Austrian farmers face, e.g. water availability ranging from drought to wet areas demanding drainage. As it was possible to gather farmers with diverse managing systems, Dr. Rosner was also able to invite farmers from “BodenLeben” association who take specific care for soil protection.



18th -29th November 2019

While on a Royal Society funded visit to Argentina to visit soybean agronomists, Prof Ian Dodd (Lancaster) took the opportunity to disseminate information about the SHui project, emphasising the importance of enhancing crop drought tolerance to cope with variable rainfall environments. Widespread adoption of minimum tillage in Argentina provides some interesting parallels for some of the SHui community, with favourable genpotype x management interactions enhancing crop water availability. He gave seminars  at the National University of Rosario and the  National University of La Plata. Both Universities maintain extensive links with plant breeders and their local agritech industries.


3rd December 2019

Diego Intrigliolo, from SHui partner CSIC, gave a talk in a farmers event at the Ministry of Agriculture and Water of Murcia, Spain on 3rd December 2019. The talk discussed using mulching as a technique for weed control and water use efficiency improvement.


Water 201911(11), 2245;

Partner Publication (CSIC):

José M. Mirás-Avalos 1,,José S. Rubio-Asensio 1,Juan M. Ramírez-Cuesta 1,José F. Maestre-Valero 2 and Diego S. Intrigliolo 1,3
1 Centro de Edafología y Biología Aplicada del Segura (CEBAS), Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas (CSIC), Espinardo, 30100 Murcia, Spain
2 Escuela Técnica Superior de Ingeniería Agronómica, Universidad Politécnica de Cartagena, Paseo Alfonso XIII 48, 30203 Cartagena, Spain
3 Instituto Valenciano de Investigaciones Agrarias (IVIA), Centro Desarrollo Agricultura Sostenible (CEDAS), Unidad asociada al CSIC “Riego en la agricultura mediterránea”, Apartado Oficial, 46113 Moncada, Valencia, Spain
Climate change will intensify water scarcity, and therefore irrigation must be adapted to save water. Operational tools that provide watering recommendations to end-users are needed. This work presents a new tool, Irrigation-Advisor (IA), which is based on weather forecasts and is able to separately determine soil evaporation and crop transpiration, and thus is adaptable to a broad range of agricultural situations. By calculating several statistical indicators, IA was tested against the FAO-56 crop evapotranspiration (ETcFAO) methodology using local crop coefficients. Additionally, IA recommendations were compared with current standard practices by experienced farmers (F). Six field experiments with four widely cultivated species (endive, lettuce, muskmelon and potato) were performed in Southeast Spain. Irrigation water applied, crop yield, aboveground biomass and water productivity were determined. Crop water needs underestimations (5%–20%) were detected when comparing IA against ETcFAO, although the index of agreement proved reasonable adjustments. The IA recommendations led to water savings up to 13% when compared to F, except for lettuce, with a 31% surplus in irrigation when using IA. Crop yield was not compromised and water productivity was increased by IA. Therefore, IA mimicked the farmers′ irrigation strategies fairly well without deploying sensors on-site. Nevertheless, improvements are needed for increasing the accuracy of IA estimations.
October 24-26, 2019

SHui partners from CSIC participated in the 2019 IEEE International workshop on Metrology for Agriculture and Forestry, Napoly (Italy).

A poster titled ‘Exploring the utility of seasonal time series  parameters derived from corine land cover products for identifying land processes’ by J.M. Ramírez-Cuesta, D. Vanella, D.S. Intrigliolo, M. Minacapilli, A. Motisi and S. Consoli was presented.