In Focus

Nuclear Techniques for Agricultural Water Management
Agriculture continues to be the main user of freshwater, withdrawing up to 70% of this water resource for irrigation and yet the water use efficiency of agriculture is less than 50%. There is therefore a continued need to further improve the productivity of agricultural water. This can be achieved through soil and water conservation, minimizing soil evaporation and improving irrigation management, especially at an area-wide basis that encompasses an integrated approach to all land use activities and farming systems within an agricultural catchment. Agricultural activities are also causing nonpoint source pollution, often due to inappropriate irrigation management, improper application of fertilizers and pesticides and animal manure. There is also a need to determine the contribution of agricultural activities to these nonpoint sources of nutrients, sediment, and pathogens movement to improve agricultural activities and to minimize its impact.

Salinity is affecting >20% of irrigated land in arid and semi-arid region and managing salt affected soil and saline water for crop production and reducing salt-induced land degradation is important. The above is made worse by extreme weather events such as drought and flood. Understanding the short and long term area-wide impacts of droughts and flooding on crops and soils and the knowledge gaps can improve the response to these extreme event impacts related to agricultural production, to maximise economic benefits to resource-poor farmers and to enhance the resilience towards the impact of climate change and extreme weather events through climate-smart agricultural water management.


  • Agricultural water management has for many years been a key topic in numerous Member States of both the FAO and the IAEA. It has also been one of the major topics for the SWMCN Subprogramme. The designation of WATER as a priority theme of the IAEA for 2011, provides the SWMCN Subprogramme the unique opportunity to:

    - Enhance Member States’ awareness of key issues related to agricultural water management for food security and sustainable development.
    - Promote greater understanding among Member States of the added and often unique value of nuclear techniques in agricultural water management.
    - Stimulate Member States’ interest in developing and advancing their capabilities in the use of nuclear techniques to enhance water saving and the efficient use of scarce water resources in agriculture.
    - Develop and foster strategic partnerships with key providers in agricultural water management with subsequent increase in extra budgetary funds for IAEA initiatives in Member States.

    Throughout the year we plan to update you under the ‘Reports’ heading in this space on activities and progress both in Member States and at the SWMCN Subprogramme relating to these goals.
  • IAEA Impact: How Nuclear Technology Helps Women Farmers in Sudan Move Out of Poverty

    Using small scale drip irrigation system and information generated using nuclear techniques on crop water requirement, women farmers in rural Sudan were able to overcome water stress of growing vegetables. Read More »

  • Adaptation to Climate Change with Improved Agricultural Water Management

    As the water available for agriculture becomes limiting due to population growth, competition from other water users, drought and water quality degradation, it is important to ensure that every drop of water (either from rainfall and irrigation) counts for crop water use.
    Full Story →


    AquaCrop is the FAO crop-model to simulate yield response to water of several herbaceous crops.

  • eLearning course

    on “Application of soil moisture monitoring”. This eLearning course will help you to improve your knowledge on soil water measurement for better crop production and improving water use efficiency. You will need to register at the Login page.

  • Interactive map

    This interactive map [.zip] gives instantaneous information on the percentage of Agricultural irrigated land, Annual agriculture freshwater withdrawals, and Annual domestic freshwater withdrawals in each country. Data came from World Bank.