Managing water scarcity in European and Chinese cropping systems
Agricultural Water Management 2020, 240, 106254;

Partner Publication (CSIC & UCO):

Tomás R. Tenreiro a,*, Margarita García-Vila b, José A. Gómez a, José A. Jimenez-Berni a, Elías Fereres a,b

a InstituteforSustainableAgriculture(CSIC),14004Cordoba,Spain

b DepartmentofAgronomy,UniversityofCordoba,14014Cordoba,Spain


• Scaling up point-based simulation modelling is a challenge due to the heterogeneity of water-related processes, and it is essential for many applications in precision agriculture.

• Seven crop simulation models and five hydrologic models were selected and their water modelling approaches were systematically reviewed for comparison. Regarding spatial modelling of water at crop field level, our analysis indicates that there is scope for conceptual improvements, but that combining both types of models may not be the best way forward.

• The most promising advances are related to the incorporation of surface inflow and subsurface lateral flows, by using differential equations or through novel water spatial partitioning relations to use in discrete-type approaches.


Shannon de Roos, KU Leuven:

“Currently I am working from my self-made home office. Our meetings are now all proceeding online. My research can continue without any disturbance as working with big data has the advantage of only needing great computational power.

Regarding SHui research plans, I am now in the evaluation stage of my model, concerning the simulation of biomass production and soil moisture by Aquacrop v6.1 over Europe at 1-km resolution. After this, I will have reached the first target of my research; developing a spatial version of the Aquacrop model. The next step will be Data Assimilation, which I will start with in the upcoming months.”


Gunther Carl Liebhard and WP1 Team, BOKU:

“At BOKU the time of Covid-19 restrictions is intensively used to evaluate least year’s data, e.g. lysimeter data for modelling purposes. Furthermore, time is used to populate the SHui database as well as for quality checks of uploaded data sets. Also, field studies continue mostly as planned, of course with appropriate safety measures (see image below).“


Sensor installation by BOKU team in Raasdorf, Austria


Miroslav Bauer, CVUT:

“We, the SHUI team at CVUT, leader of WP2.2, have been greatly affected by the current covid-19 situation. But luckily, we were still allowed to organize a series of experimental field campaigns. The images below show one of our biggest experimental campaigns during spring 2020 where we monitored the retention capacity of grass strips- Plots of various slopes, lengths and types of vegetation were included.



For the SHUI project, we have strengthened online communication internally as well as externally to continue our research activities. With colleagues from CSIC, BOKU, and BAW we have initiated monthly ZOOM meetings within our sub-WP2.2 – things are running smoothly, and people are working and collaborating!

We have also used our time to present some of our results (active participation at remotely organized EGU meeting) + to prepare topical manuscripts with a foreseen submission during summer 2020.”


While EU researchers are currently operating in a low-mobility environment due to covid-19 restrictions in many countries, our Chinese colleagues are taking tentative steps to return to normality, with some adjustments to keep the experimental campaign proceeding.

Gang Liu of Beijing Normal University re-located to the Jiusan soil conservation experiment station located in Heilongjiang province since mid-April, working with local farmers to ensure sowing of a maize/soybean rotation since the first week of May (see images below). Suhong Liu and Yun Xie’s planned field experiment for AquaCrop model calibration was changed from Xinjiang to Hebei province to align with the graduate student’s home town.


Sowing on runoff plot with 1 degree steepness.


Sowing on runoff plot with 5 degree steepness.


  Sowing on ridge tillage cropland.

Sowing on no-till cropland.


Checking seed density and depth.


Meanwhile, Weifeng Xu and colleagues of Fujian Agricultural & Forestry University have managed to plant a rice experiment at Sanming City, Fujian Province, investigating the impact of alternate wetting and drying irrigation, as part of a long-term data set (see images below).


Rice seedlings growing.                                            1 day after transplanting.                                  30 days after transplanting.


Thus progress is still being made in the project (additional to the frenetic efforts of our simulation modelling community).


Bright and early (0730 in UK time) on a Monday morning, instead of physically convening over a Viennese coffee, 10 intrepid researchers / bloggers  joined an online discussion of  EGU session SSS9.4  entitled “Challenges for competitive and sustainable EU-China agricultural systems under increasing pressures on soil and water resources”, with SHui amply represented.




Our co-ordinator Jose Gomez hosted the session, with 9 chat-based presentations and a “home movie” on Gully Erosion that can be downloaded below (watch out Netflix!).

There was a diverse range of presentations, including mapping soil erosion, determining productive (transpiration) and non-productive (evaporation) agricultural water use and use of water-saving irrigation techniques. Ian Dodd concluded proceedings with a presentation on a previous EU project that allowed EU early career researchers to spend significant research time in China. 

There was considerable post-session discussion of trying to operate in a Covid-19 environment.

SHui partners also contributed to other sessions, such as Czech Technical University PhD students Nina Noreika and Tailin Li, who presented in the session HS2.2.1 “Models and Data: Understanding and representing spatio-temporal dynamics of hydrological processes”.


The SHui presentations were the following and can be downloaded: 


Uncertainties associated with the delineation of management zones in precision agriculture

Tomás R. Tenreiro, Margarita García-Vila, José A. Gómez, and Elías Fereres


Plot-scale experiments to assess the effects of surface spatial heterogeneity on runoff and soil loss

David Zumr, Jakub Jeřábek, Josef Krása, and Tomáš Dostál


Research challenges on gully erosion control in EU and China

Jose Alfonso Gomez, Guangju Zhao, Honghu Liu, Yu Yang, Javier Lopez, and Yun Xie


Partitioning evapotranspiration into transpiration and evaporation by use of isotope balance calculation

Gunther Liebhard, Andreas Klik, Peter Strauß, and Reinhard Nolz


Evaluating AquaCrop for simulating response of tomato to irrigation induced salinity

Yuki Ito and Alon Ben-Gal


Recent trends in crop rotation in the Czech Republic and associated soil erosion risks

Josef Krasa, Tomas Dostal, David Zumr, Adam Tejkl, and Miroslav Bauer


Deficit irrigation and the reuse of reclaimed water as strategies to cope with water scarcity in perennial crops. A summary of long-term trials within the H2020 SHUI project

Diego Intrigliolo, Emilio Nicolas, Francisco Pedrero, Pedro Nortes, and Juan José Alarcón


SEW-REAP: planting the seeds of early career soil-soya research in China

Ian Dodd, Pedro Castro, Purificacion Martinez-Melgarejo, Francisco Perez-Alfocea, Jian Tian, Hon-Ming Lam, Jianhua Zhang, and David Tyfield




The pandemic is also affecting SHui, with some field and laboratory experiments postponed, and partners now adapting to work from home. However, Chinese and EU partners are adjusting to fulfil project tasks and keep research progressing as best they can.


Tomáš Dostál, CVUT:

“A virtual meeting of sub WP 2.2 – Hydrological modelling was organized 1st April 2020 via ZOOM. Eighteen partners participated in the meeting – 5 from China, 13 from Europe (Czech Republic, Austria, Spain and UK) – lasting 2 hours. Five PhD students presented their results on applying mathematical models to European experimental catchments. Further plans for cooperation were discussed and the preparation/structure of three common papers was confirmed. All participants found the meeting useful and agreed to arrange monthly virtual sessions.”


WP 2.2 – Hydrological modelling meeting.


Diego Intrigliolo, CEBAS-CSIC:

“Since only desk work can currently be carried out due to COVID-19 pandemic, we took advantage of previous data collected in a Tempranillo vineyard to calibrate and validate a soil water balance model that predicts midday stem water potential (Ystem), an indicator employed for irrigation management. The model tended to provide Ystem values more negative than those measured, although it reproduced the temporal dynamics of Ystem over the growing season.”



Diego Intrigliolo recording leaf water potential pre-lockdown.


Jose A. Gomez, Instituto de Agricultura Sostenible – CSIC, Project Coordinator:

“I am developing manuscripts and model analyses at home, pursuing the reporting and coordination of SHui, and in general maintaining all on-going activities (e.g. SHui session at the next EGU which will be online). Like other people of my lab, I am allowed to do some essential tasks in our field experiments, providing I go alone and my director has issued me a specific permit for this task.. Detailed sampling or tasks that need to be performed by several people have been cancelled, which will result in a COVID-19 gap in our long-term experiments.”


Tomas Roquette Tenreiro, PhD student at University of Cordoba:

“Since agriculture is essential, I‘ve been authorized to visit a commercial farm approximately once a week to maintain indispensable tasks (e.g. measurement of crop physiological parameters, maintenance of equipment, etc.). These high-priority tasks have been combined with home working including data analysis, modelling, programming and scientific writing. I‘ve postponed a dissemination meeting with farmers and consultants that would happen later in April, and am studying alternative strategies, such as web meetings.”


The lockdown has brought some unusual visitors to our work environments…


Nina Noreika’s workstation, PhD student at CVUT.


SOIL Discuss., 2019;

Partner Publication (IAS – CSIC):

José A. Gómez1, Gema Guzmán2, Arsenio Toloza3, Christian Resch3, Roberto García-Ruíz4, and Lionel Mabit3

1Institute for Sustainable Agriculture-CSIC, Córdoba, Spain

2Applied Physics Dept., University of Córdoba, Spain

3Soil and Water Management and Crop Nutrition Laboratory, FAO/IAEA Agriculture & Biotechnology Laboratory, IAEA Laboratories Seibersdorf, Austria

4Animal and Plant Biology and Ecology Dept., Ecology section, Center for advance studies in olive groves and olive oils, University of Jaén, Spain



This study compares the distribution of bulk soil organic carbon (SOC also reported as Corg), its fractions (unprotected, physical, chemical and biochemically protected), available P (Pavail), organic nitrogen (Norg) and stable isotopes (δ15N and δ13C) signatures at four soil depths (0–10, 10–20, 20–30, 30–40 cm) between a nearby forested reference area and an historical olive orchard (established in 1856) located in Southern Spain. In addition, these soil properties, as well as water stable aggregates (Wsagg) were contrasted at eroding and deposition areas within the olive orchard, previously determined using 137Cs. Results highlight a significant depletion of SOC stock in the olive orchard as compared to the forested area, approximately 120 vs. 55 t C ha−1 at the top 40 cm of soil respectively, being severe in the case of unprotected carbon fraction. Erosion and deposition within the old olive orchard created large differences in soil properties along a catena, resulting in higher Corg, Pavail and Norg contents and δ15N at the deposition area and therefore defining two areas with a different soil quality status (degraded vs. non-degraded). Differences in δ15N at such different catena locations suggest that this isotopic signature has the potential for being used as an indicator of soil degradation magnitude, although additional studies would be required to confirm this finding. These overall results indicate that proper understanding of Corg content and soil quality in olive orchards require the consideration of the spatial variability induced by erosion/deposition processes for a convenient appraisal at farm scale.


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!




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.