Research matters ... Water-use strategy

It is increasingly evident that the future of the horticultural industry in the UK is under threat from competition for water. Some sectors, such as protected cropping, already require almost continual access to water.

Although not all vegetable crops are irrigated, this sector of the industry would be most affected by any restrictions on water supply because it accounts for 63 per cent of the total irrigated area in England and Wales.

In the report described below, the locations of all horticultural businesses were matched to their appropriate water catchment areas - regions where the supply and demand for water was accurately known. More than half of all businesses were in areas defined as having "no more water available" and fewer than one-fifth were in areas where additional abstraction licences could be granted during summer low-flow periods.

Growers were also asked about irrigation and their answers enabled a set of priorities to be created. The key ones were to improve understanding of the leaching of nutrients and pesticides; to improve scheduling technologies; to improve growers' understanding of the links between poor uniformity of irrigation, crop production and profitability; and to make better use of water through collection, storage and recycling.

Development of a Water-Use Strategy for Horticulture in England and Wales - A Case Study by Knox, Rodriguez-Diaz, Weatherhead and Kay (2010). Journal of Horticultural Science & Biotechnology 85 (2): 89-93. The authors' abstract of their manuscript can be seen in full at

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