ICARDA's supplemental irrigation (SI) packages help overcome water scarcity by supplying only the minimum amount of water required for rainfed crops, to stabilize and increase yields when rain fails and provide enough water for healthy plant growth.
ICARDA's breakthroughs include the fine-tuning of when and how much to irrigate, where to source water from, what associated agronomic practices to follow, and the best diversification of cropping systems. This is all aimed at maximizing biophysical and economic crop water productivity, as well as water security for nutrition, under a changing climate.
Where introduced by ICARDA, SI has substantially increased the yields of rain-fed crops (by up to 470 percent) with application of small amounts of water, making it feasible to scale up in water-scarce areas. SI provides higher and more stable yields, lower risk of crop failure, and significantly higher crop water productivity, significantly improving farmers' income. ICARDA's recent USAID-funded collaborative work with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology on ultra-low energy drip irrigation for Middle Eastern and North African countries cuts pumping energy in half and facilitates the adoption of affordable, solar-powered supplemental irrigation while helping cultivate cash crops.
ICARDA's SI innovation supports 'more with less' agriculture through the development of packages (guidance, training and inputs) that allow optimal irrigation, deficit irrigation, irrigation timing and responsive crop varieties and strategies for reducing water footprints, maximizing water productivity and avoiding climate extremes.