Alterra was invited by the embassy of the Netherlands in Argentina to participate in the annual congress AAPRESID in Argentina, the biggest Farmer Congress of the country to provide a keynote presentation about soil moisture – water logging management for a sustainable agriculture.
AAPRESID is the largest farmer association of Direct Seeding Producers in Argentina, with wheat, maize, sorghum, sunflower and soybean as the main crops used (around 28 million ha in the whole country), most of them in rain fed conditions.
In some plains areas of central Argentina - Región Pampeana (watersheds of Río Salado, Río Juramento, Río Quinto) problems related with water logging - flooding are beginning to emerge, with an increase in the groundwater levels in the last years. This could be related with a combination of a more humid period (1970-2000 - not confirmed in all the areas), an important change of land use (transformation of forest and pasturelands to direct seeding cereals (soya, wheat and maize) and the low natural drainage capacity of the system. This problem affect a large area around 1 million ha the last seasons.
Farmers, producers and government are becoming more and more worried about this issue, not only those directly affected by flooding or waterlogging, but also all those who observe how the water table is increasing every year. For example, in some areas of Marcos Juarez, water table has risen from 15m depth in 1985 to 0.5m in 2016.
Identification of problems and future challenges
During the congress and during several meetings with stakeholders (members of AAPRESID, INTA, government of Cordoba, producers, embassy of the Netherlands), we identify possible collaborations, specially related with the next topics/issues:
- Land use/water modelling: specially to increase the evapotranspiration capacity of the system (intensification of rotations, land use change, use of bio drainage, avoiding fallow lands, etc.).
- Conventional drainage in the most affected areas: they have experience in superficial drainage but not in subsuperfical drainage. Also, a complete evaluation of the drainage capacity of the system (watershed and main stream) is needed, since the current rivers and streams are sometimes overloaded.
- Biodrainage: no trees can be found in most of the areas. This could be a complementary tool to increase the evapotranspiration capacity of the system.
- Water governance and integrated water management: there are no water authorities in Argentina, There are no water authorities in Argentina, so water is not managed at river basin scale. There is also a big challenge related with land ownership, since most of the producer rent the lands (70%) in the same season. This could hinder strategies in the long term.
- An agreement was reached with AAPRESID and INTA to develop a project proposal about integrated water (-logging) management. This project should be also a pilot area to develop the water governance on a river basin scale in the country.
- Another challenge is to find financial resources for the project. International funds could be an interesting option: World Bank, FAO, EuropeAid, or Dutch funds (RVO). A Dutch governmental mission (ministry of Economic Affairs) is planned at the beginning of September, with management as an important issue.