Soil and Water Management & Crop Nutrition Laboratory (SWMCNL)

Soil and water are vital for food security. Despite the importance of these resources, approximately five to seven million hectares of land are lost each year through inappropriate soil management while the estimated global water use efficiency in agriculture is a mere 40 per cent. In addition, climate change has become a major threat to global food security, with changing weather patterns bringing storms, floods, droughts and extreme temperatures. Nuclear technologies play an increasingly crucial role in assessing the impacts of climate change and variability on soil and agricultural water resources, and in establishing effective soil, water and crop management packages for climate change mitigation and adaptation. More recently these technologies are also being directed towards the enhancement of nuclear emergency response. The Soil and Water Mangement and Crop Nutrition Laboratory (SWMCNL) uses nuclear technologies to address these global issues.

Celebrating 50 Years 1964 - 2014, Joint FAO/IAEA Division Improving farming systems' resilience to impact of climate change The SWMCNL assists Member States through the development of robust and affordable isotope and nuclear techniques to improve soil, water and nutrient management practices that ensure climatesmart agriculture and contribute to reducing greenhouse gas emissions from farmlands. The application of isotope and nuclear techniques has gradually shifted from the field to the area-wide scale. New, robust and affordable isotope and nuclear techniques now enable field staff to effectively measure real-time changes in soil and water quantity and quality and hence to adopt improved practices that make farming systems more resilient to the impacts of climate change.

Soil erosion assessment and control The SWMCNL applies fallout radionuclide techniques to assess the magnitude of soil erosion and the impacts of soil conservation measures on soil erosion to provide strategies to Member States for sustainable agriculture and minimizing land degradation. Recently, compound-specific stable isotope techniques have been developed and adopted to identify sediments sources and to apportion their contributions from different land uses at area-wide scale, and to assist land managers and farmers by providing guidelines to improve land management practices for sustainable agriculture.

Celebrating 50 Years 1964 - 2014, Joint FAO/IAEA Division Agricultural water management Using nuclear techniques, the SWMCNL helps Member States to optimize water conservation in agricultural landscapes through the use of farm ponds and wetlands. The SWMCNL also assists Member States in assessing the performance of different irrigation water management technologies, and in determining crop water requirements to increase crop water productivity and area-wide water use efficiency.

Enhancing nuclear emergency response in food and agriculture Recent nuclear incidents and the consequent increase in demand from Member States for assistance in this area, has directed the focus of the SWMCNL also towards rapid and real-time response to nuclear emergencies affecting food and agriculture, including soil and agricultural water resources. The SWMCNL supports the critical need of Member States to improve data collection and the management and mapping (visualization) necessary for the effective and timely dissemination and communication of information to stakeholders in affected areas. It also develops technologies to assess the effects of such incidences on soil, food and agricultural produce.

In association with global partners, the SWMCNL is developing tools to record and map (visualise) the effects of nuclear incidences in agricultural landscapes.

For more information visit Soil and Water Management & Crop Nutrition Laboratory webpage.