Seed World

Every Day is World Water Day

water, farm, field, grass
photo courtesy Pixabay

The seed industry is always innovating to conserve and more efficiently use water in a changing climate.

Water is essential to the seed industry, playing a pivotal role in every stage of a seed’s journey from production to germination. For seed producers, managing water resources efficiently is crucial for ensuring high-quality seeds. We need adequate water to grow robust parent plants, which in turn produce healthy seeds. Once these seeds reach farmers, water remains essential for germination and seedling establishment. In essence, every day is water day.

The National Weather Service Climate Prediction Center maintains a drought information section on its website. Some regions of the United States currently are in drought. However, the seasonal outlook for drought looks fairly good for the middle of the country, thanks to a lingering El Niño, but parts of the upper Midwest and the Southwest will face persistent precipitation shortages.

With increasing concerns over water scarcity, the seed industry is always innovating to develop drought-resistant varieties and more water-efficient production techniques. These innovations not only safeguard the industry’s future but also support sustainable agriculture in water-limited regions. The relationship between water and the seed industry is a cycle of dependence and innovation, highlighting the importance of this vital resource in feeding a growing world.

At the January 2024 meeting of the Independent Professional Seed Association, Shawn Hackett, president of Hackett Financial Adivsors, said “there is no such thing as a constant climate.”

He described fluctuating weather patterns, characterized by unpredictable rainfall, temperature shifts and extreme events like droughts and floods, directly affect seed quality and yield. As the seed industry well knows, excessive rainfall can lead to fungal diseases in crops, compromising seed quality, while drought conditions can severely reduce seed production. These inconsistencies challenge seed producers in planning and ensuring a consistent supply of high-quality seeds. Additionally, climate unpredictability necessitates continuous research and development of new seed varieties that are resilient to these changing conditions, adding to the operational costs and complexities of the seed industry.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) will release the results of the 2023 Irrigation and Water Management Survey later this year. It will be interesting to compare the results to the 2017 survey. The previous survey showed more than 58 million acres of U.S. farmland under irrigation. In 2023, the USDA NASS reported total acres of U.S. farmland was just over 878 million acres, a decrease of nearly 70 million acres since 2000.

As climate change continues to impact global water availability, the seed industry’s role in water conservation becomes even more critical. By investing in research and development, the industry can create seeds that require less water, reducing the overall demand on this precious resource. This not only benefits the environment but also ensures that farmers can continue to produce crops even in areas facing water shortages.

Water is an indispensable element in the seed industry, influencing everything from seed production to crop growth. As the world grapples with the challenges of water scarcity, the seed industry’s efforts in water conservation and innovation are vital for ensuring a sustainable and food-secure future.

Another timely quote from Hackett at the annual IPSA meeting shows the value of water and innovating to conserve water and prepare for an abundance or shortage of it.

“Awareness provides opportunity to create positive actions (to prepare),” he said. “When there is greater price volatility there is always greater profitability on the farm if you are active in taking advantage of it. Weather is going to happen whether I talk about it or not.”

Here are just a few stories Seed World has published about water:

Water is Life

Scientists Find New Way to Reduce Water Use and Improve Plant Growth

Scientists Engineer Crops to Conserve Water and Resist Drought

Plant Water Management Critical for Climate Change

Drought-Resistant Tomatoes In Development

Are Drought-Tolerant Turf Varieties Enough to Beat the Heat?

This Water Monitoring Study Will Provide Crucial Data to Pesticide Regulators