Managing water scarcity in European and Chinese cropping systems


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




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!