Poland: webinar on prevention of agricultural drought

Water is essential for living, but in agriculture, which feeds us all, it needs a special attention.

watering can in the sun rays

Just the appropriate amount of water is necessary to  obtain good yields – it cannot be too much but also not too little for plants to grow. It has to be sufficient for drinking farm animals, covering human needs and watering the plants. In order to satisfy all that needs, a good an sustainable water management plan is necessary.

In recent years, we have been observing progressive climate changes, which in Poland are manifested by increased temperature fluctuations and lack of rainfall during plant growth. Warm and almost snowless winters occur more and more often, which means that the soil is dry already in spring, when the crops need water the most. In such a situation, the farmers cannot be certain their yields and consumes might expect the food price increase – as it was forecasted in Poland early this year.

faces of participats of a drought webinar on zoom app

Webinar on drought

As agricultural drought has the great impact on farmers and farming, with stakeholders from different levels involved, the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherland in Warsaw organized on 16 July 2020 a webinar on the topic of agricultural drought management, with Polish and Dutch speakers giving an overview of the drought situation and the government and scientific policies in this area.

The whole webinar you can watch here.


The speakers from different institutions were invited:

  • Prof. Waldemar Treder, Institute of Horticulture – presentation on irrigation in horticulture in Poland, irrigation challenges and proposed solutions
  • Dr hab. Grzegorz Siebielec, Institute of Soil Cultivation and Soil Science - presentation on sustainable soil management, challenges connected with agricultural drought and proposed solutions
  • Katarzyna Delis-Szeląg, Department of Water Management and Inland Navigation, Ministry of Maritime Economy and Inland Navigation – presentation on Polish government’s priorities regarding the prevention of agricultural drought
  • Dr. ir. Jasper Dalhuisen, Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality in the Netherlands (LNV) - presentation on the current situation of drought in the Netherland and the policy responses
  • Tine te Winkel, water availability expert, Acacia Water – presentation on practical implementation of the Dutch solutions to prevent agricultural drought.

Drought more common...

Among the possible measures to face the agricultural drought, sustainable irrigation and soil management were examined.

Grzegorz Siebielec indicated that drought is more and more common phenomenon in Poland, in some regions even indigenous. National system of drought monitoring allows to identify areas with significant yield reduction due to drought. This year’s drought is not so strong, but it causes severe problems in PL agriculture, in particular on light soils, with relatively low soil organic matter and with high acidity. Unfortunately, soil with such characteristics are common in Poland, especially in central part of the country. One of the solutions is good soil management, which will result in drought resistance. Soils reach in organic matter have better capacity to retain water, and this can be achieved by the application of organic fertilizers, but also with crop residues retained on the field. Acid soils, which also do not produce good yields in the dry periods, can be improved with liming, but following the analyses of soil status. Dr Siebielec also noted that apart from increasing capacity of soil to retain water also sustainable irrigation and small retention can help to counteract the drought problems.

map of Poland with marked climate water balance seen on a monitor

...and not a new problem in Poland

Waldemar Treder indicated that drought is not a new problem in Poland, in particular in certain regions. As it was assessed, the increase in the average annual air temp. about 1 °C causes an increase in water demand by approx. 70 mm. And the occurrence of drought drastically lowers the yields for fruit and vegetables. Therefore, investments in irrigation infrastructure are necessary to maintain good yield. And it must be noticed that different irrigation system allow for different water use, eg. 36% water saving was observed as compared drip irrigation to sprinkler irrigation. Professor Treder described also challenges for sustainable irrigation, such as need for financial investments in innovative systems, but also provision of water reservoirs for water intake.

Polish water policy

Katarzyna Delis-Szeląg noticed that water policy in Poland based on the low volume of water resources (16000 m3 per person per year – compared to Egypt), low water retention (about 6%) and climatic determinants (problem of droughts and floods). Therefore, it was decided to propose complementary actions – both technical and non-technical. As a result, Polish water policy covers flood and drought plans, investments, legislative initiatives, water partnerships. In all these areas priorities were developed, among them providing water for agriculture. In this context, large retention, but mostly small retention projects are developed. Additionally, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, the Ministry of Maritime Economy and Inland Navigation as well as the State Water Holding Polish Waters have taken up the initiative to create "Water Partnerships" - direct / field cooperation of Catchment Boards and Water Supervisors with local government, local water companies, farmers and representatives of ARMA and all stakeholders in order to develop the best standards of actions to minimize the effects of drought. Moreover, legislative proposal is developed to simplify the procedures in force to increase retention in agricultural areas.

slide with Dutch policy on drought seen on a screen

Netherlands and water

It seems that the Netherlands, as a country located below the see level, has plenty of water and the challenge is to drain the fields. However, the Dutch agriculture has been facing the problem of lack of water, especially in some regions, and therefore, looks for solutions to manage the agricultural drought. As presented by Jasper Dalhuisen, in the water scarcity situation agriculture competes with industry and drinking water sector for water availability. Therefore, the proposed measures focus on using less water in agriculture and for better management of available water resources. The general water management aims at improving storage of water both for public, industrial and agricultural use. Additionally public awareness campaigns are organized to encourage the citizens to save water.

Slide on drough in agriculture seen on a zoom app

Water savings by farmers in the Netherlands

Tine te Winkel presented two interesting examples in the Netherlands of water saving by farmers. In the first example, island of Texel, high demand for freshwater (due to high salination) called for new investments in irrigation in agriculture. Pilot study proposed installation to save, store underground and reuse water. The positive effects were observed after 1-2 years. In the second example, Philipine (Zeeland) the starting conditions were unfavorable for farming: no water supply, high groundwater, high costs of irrigation with vast area of arable farming. The proposed solution was drip irrigation project, which in the end contributed to less water used, reduced risk of yield loss and minimized use of fertilizers.

The intensifying year-round droughts force the scientists and policy makers to discuss and implement the ideas on climate adaptation in agriculture. With the limited precipitation, we need to propose the farmers how to save water, capture it or use is efficiently. We need to offer them sustainable and affordable solutions, that could be implemented in a reasonably short time span and adjusted to their local needs and environment. It must be remembered that both in Poland and the Netherlands the situation differs between the regions, therefore, the proposed solutions need to be tailor made.

green grain with herbs and blue sky

EU policy

Additionally, new challenges , but also opportunities, emerge from the EU policy, with ambitious targets set in Green Deal strategies, such as reduction of synthetic fertilisers and pesticides, carbon sequestration, increased area of nature protection and organic farming. In this context agriculture should focus on regenerating soil functions and improving water use efficiency with circularity based approach. Irrigation strategies and soil management strategies should be based on scientific evidence and economically reliable criteria. Polish scientists work closely on assisting farmers in making the sustainable choices.

Since the topic is common both for Poland and for the Netherlands, we can learn from each other a lot and exchange ideas and best practices. Research exchange platform, common participation in EU project and sharing Dutch modern technologies can contribute to achieve this goal. The two countries share the same problems and it is interesting to learn how they are tackled, in order to avoid unnecessary mistakes. The Embassy would welcome and encourage further cooperation and initiatives on the topic of agricultural drought management.

LAN-WAR- own report AG