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CLIMATE CHANGE IMPACTS ON POTATO CROP PRODUCTIVITY AND WATER USE IN EASTERN ENGLAND

Congress: 2008
Author(s): Knox, J.W., Weatherhead, E. K. and Rodríguez Díaz, J.


Keyword(s): Water use, irigation, water management, water availability, climate change, adaptation, GIS, modelling, potato, England
AbstractINTRODUCTION In England, irrigation is supplemental to rainfall and concentrated on high value crops, such as potatoes and vegetables. Continuous supplies of premium quality produce are demanded by the major supermarkets. Farmers use irrigation in order to ensure production and quality levels. In 2006, 34% of the potato production in the country came from Eastern England (2006, DEFRA). The water resources are already under pressure with some catchments being over-abstracted. Climate change is expected to result in higher irrigation needs, and reduced water availability, especially during summer months when the irrigation is needed. OBJECTIVES The research aims to identify and map the future impacts climate change might cause on productivity and water use of potato cropping in Eastern England, at farm, catchment level and regional level, to consider how these changes relate to the predicted changes in water availability, and to consider the potential impacts on water allocation and management. METHODS Baseline data in crop, weather and soil characteristics are used in a potato crop model to simulate future production and irrigation water use under climate change conditions. Then, using GIS techniques the spatial relationships between potato areas and volumetric demand are mapped, highlighting the areas under increased water stress conditions. RESULTS The potato crop modelling indicates an increase of the potato yield and a higher irrigation water use. GIS analysis of the spatial relationships between potato areas and volumetric demand shows an increase in the number of catchments affected by water stress conditions. CONCLUSIONS The effects of climate change on water availability and the increase in the irrigation water demand suggest a rise in the conflicts between potato production and other water uses. Farmers and water managers need to adapt to this new situation; potato production is an important economic activity and a significant employer. Adaptation options do exist, albeit with costs.
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