Cranfield University has announced an exciting new project. The experts from Cranfield will be working to improve smallholders’ banana irrigation management practices. This project is being undertaken along with Colombian partner FUNDEBAN, a social foundation created by banana exporter TECBACO. Their efforts will concentrate on the post-conflict Magdalena region, in Colombia to help female smallholders increase rural livelihoods.
Professors Andrew Thompson and Jerry Knox from Cranfield will be combining their expertise in plant physiology, irrigation engineering and agricultural water management to lead development of the tool, working closely with business partners in the UK and Colombia.
The project will run for approximately 18-months. It will develop and test a new irrigation scheduling service for growers. This will be done by incorporating high-resolution, remote-sensed imagery coupled with data from a network of weather stations and soil moisture sensors and outputs from a crop growth model. Via the use of a mobile app, the smallholders will be supplied with the scheduling service to support in-field irrigation decisions in order to improve water management and crop productivity.
In such a harsh and demanding environment, the key will be developing a tool that is intuitively easy for the growers to use but underpinned by robust science. The longer-term plan is to extend the scheduling advice at low cost to a much wider group of farmers in the region to increase export revenues from bananas and translate the knowledge for application into other high-value commodity export sectors.
Bananas are reportedly the most popular fruit in the world. The European Union constitutes the largest market for Colombian bananas, receiving over three quarters (76%) of its national export supplies.
The project is one of seven recently funded through the Colombian Prosperity Fund Programme implemented by Innovate UK and the International Centre for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), with coffee, cocoa and tilapia the focus of the other projects.
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