The UN estimates that we’ll have nearly 10 billion people to feed by 2050. As the global population increases and more countries become industrialized, global demand for water is soaring. The UN predicts that as early as 2025, two-thirds of the population could be living with severe water shortages.
One major contributor to the pending water crisis—agriculture gulps more than 2/3 of our potable water—leads to an obvious, yet bold idea: feed the world using less water.
In response to drought conditions in California where agriculture consumes 80% of potable water, California wine growers are taking bold action. Following methods adopted from vineyards in France, Dominus Estate in California’s Napa Valley uses dry farming to grow its grapes.
Dry farming involves no irrigation. Crops are planted in terrain where water runoff can be captured, and the soil is prepared to retain as much moisture is possible using mulch and ground cover plants. Dominus’ viticulturist Tod Mostero attributes an additional benefit, better tasting grapes, to dry farming: “We don’t believe you can make a wine that has true character, or at least the character of your vineyard unless it’s dry farmed. Because only if it’s dry farmed will it have that connection with the soil.”
Another bold idea developed by Bill Davies, a University of Lancaster professor and crop scientist, reduces half the water normally used to irrigate crops. The plant’s root system is split in half; one-half is watered, the other half is not. At some point in the growing cycle, the process is reversed.
Dry farming flourishes in drought-stricken California. To positively impact the world’s growing demand for potable water, bold leaders the world over will need to adopt dry farming and other bold measures.