Managing water scarcity in European and Chinese cropping systems

Author: Jakub Jeřábek, PhD student at Czech Technical University in Prague

“You study mud”. This is how people often respond when I tell them what I study. Don’t take me wrong. Mud is cool. But the topics I am interested in are transport processes of water (and other substances) into soil.

Artificial rainfall experiment. Study of tillage and wheel tracks effects on the runoff generation and soil loss.

Water and soil are both crucial natural resources. Agriculture is a human activity that alters enormous areas of the earth surface and changes soils and water dynamics.  Good soil can hold water which can be used by plants during a dry period and can lead the water through in the case of rainfall at the same time. It is therefore necessary to study soil and water and understand processes behind this.

My background began in landscape engineering where we studied all sorts of aspects of the landscape. However, after some time my attention gravitated to water and soil studies. For me, it was a perfect combination of studying natural phenomena’s and doing computations, both things I very much like to do. In my master’s thesis, I coded a coupled transport model into the existing numerical framework and even though I did not become a coder, I got a good idea of how numerical models work ‘from the inside’.

During the field work. Photos by Tailin Li.


During my Ph.D. studies I started to do more of field measurements, lab work, and in general, more experimental research. We studied the homogeneity of the subsoil with geophysical methods, how the topsoil topography changes due to tillage, and traffic affected the runoff generation. Also, a lot of work was done at our experimental catchment Nučice where we study the water dynamics in agricultural landscape (for more details see the post by Talin Li).  Most of the pits I dug in my life were during my Ph.D. while taking the soil samples or installing the probes.

In the SHui project I am part of the group dealing with WP 2.2 where we model soil and water movement in the landscape. One of the goals of our team is to assess various technical and agronomic control measures. My work specifically is to model the various agronomic practices under different climatic settings to show their effect on the water balance. Also, I was working quite closely with our Spanish colleges from the WP 2.1. The collaborative nature of the SHui project is one of the most valuable things for me.


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