The central valley is filled with signs that proclaim “Food Grows Where Water Flows.” While some drivers may overlook the simplicity of the message, farmers and ranchers understand its importance. Perhaps it’s time to put these signs in cities, too. Here are some reasons why they are needed. 1. Crops require ample amounts of water. And they need water at the right times. In fact, the amount of water needed to grow meat can be anywhere from six to twenty times greater than the amount needed to grow cereals.
Production of food requires lots of water
There’s no denying that the production of food uses a lot of water. Olive oil, for example, requires about 1,729 gallons of water per pound of product. Other oils, such as coconut and soybean oil, require about 502 gallons of water per pound. Fruits and vegetables are also water-intensive. Chocolate and cocoa powder use about 2,061 gallons of water per pound, while vanilla beans use about 15,159 gallons per pound.
Plants need lots of water in order to grow. In addition, they need it at the right times. There are specific water requirements for crops, depending on the type of crop and local climate. For example, meat production requires anywhere from six to twenty times more water per pound than cereal production. Although meat and dairy products require the highest amounts of water per unit weight, most other food crops require less than ten percent of that.
Crops require water in adequate quantity
For agricultural growth, plants need water in sufficient quantities for both vegetative growth and development. The water requirements of different crops vary with location and climate. For example, wheat, which requires four to five inches of water per square meter, requires nearly six times as much water as soybeans. Likewise, the water requirements of meat production differ widely. During dry conditions, corn and soybean yields will drop by as much as 50%.
During the reproductive stage, corn is highly sensitive to water stress and requires as much as 22 to 30 inches of water per year. Its water requirements peak during tasseling and silking, two stages of the development cycle. Corn is also sensitive to desiccation, which can reduce its yield. Crop water use is measured in ET, the amount of water required per unit area. Crops whose water needs are too high will be more susceptible to disease and other stress factors.
Crops require water at the right time
The right timing of irrigation is vital to the growth of many crops, especially crops that need a lot of moisture during the growing season. Unlike plants, which are not sensitive to water stress, crops require water at the right time throughout their growing cycle. Water availability in the soil affects plant growth, disease resistance, and crop yield. Farmers must carefully manage the timing of irrigation to avoid crop damage and maximize yields.
Water needs vary with the climatic conditions, crop type, and growth stage. Calculating crop water requirements is not always easy, but you can get an idea of the daily water requirements of the most common field crops by calculating their water needs based on the climate of their region. Depending on the time of year and type of crop, you can choose an appropriate irrigation time for your crop. Crops that are grown in cold climates have lower daily water requirements than those that grow in hot, dry climates.
Production of meat requires six to twenty times more water than for cereals
In terms of water footprint, beef is the biggest culprit, with a total of 15,414 litres used in the production of a kilogram of beef. This is far more than other meats like pork and chicken, and it’s a disproportionate amount of water. Conversely, a single gram of fat from beef consumes only 322 litres. Despite this discrepancy, it’s important to understand why beef is so high on the water footprint scale.
During this same timeframe, the global population increased from 84 million to 1.4 billion. While the total global population grew, the production of meat and other animal feed exploded. This resulted in a massive loss of calories. While cereals and oilseeds are an excellent food source, their conversion rates vary wildly. For example, chickens require approximately two kilograms of grain per pound of meat, whereas pigs and beef require almost seven kilograms of grain.