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Scientists at the University of Manchester launch tech to improve agricultural water management and climate risk assessment

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3 min read
AUTHOR: Fiona Holland
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A new crop management tool called AquaPlan has been launched by researchers at the University of Manchester this week to allow the agricultural sector make more informed decisions about water management, irrigation investments and climate risks.

The Agriculture, Water, and Climate Group (AWC) at the University of Manchester partnered with Development Seed to launch the interactive downloadable software.

With the tech, users can assess how crop yields and water demands are impacted by different forms of management practices and changing climate scenarios in various parts of the world.

It has been created for farmers, agronomists, water managers to use in regions where water limitations could negatively impact crop production. The technology allows them to automatically integrate weather and soil data from trusted open-source datasets and view model outputs with an interactive interface.  

The new technology hopes to help the agricultural sector learn how to grow more food while keeping pressure on freshwater resources and ecosystems low. Such a tool has only been available to highly trained researchers and scientists up until now, according to the university.

AquaPlan was developed from a combination of scientific modelling tools, cloud processing, automated data integration and an intuitive interface to make agricultural water management and climate adaptation quicker and easier to manage.

It also leverages an open-source crop-water model called AquaCrop-OSPy, which has been tested and improved upon over the past decade by researchers in the AWC group and the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations.

The development is particularly timely given the return of hosepipe bans in the UK this summer due to a drought being declared across several areas of the country and elsewhere in Europe.

The AWC and Development Seed team will be adding more features to AquaPlan in the coming months, including the ability to further customise simulations and make the tool useable across larger regional areas.

Dr Tim Foster, Senior Lecturer in Water-Food Security and leader of the AWC Research Group at University of Manchester said: “Crop models are incredibly powerful tools to help agriculture adapt to growing pressures posed by water scarcity and climate change. However, these models require a lot of time and specialist expertise to implement which has often limited their use outside of research projects.

“AquaPlan provides a practical tool to overcome these challenges, putting state-of-the-art modelling tools in the hands of farmers, practitioners, and policymakers working to improve food and water security globally.”

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