The ongoing climate crisis necessitates innovative solutions, especially in agriculture. In the central Turkish province of Konya, the country’s breadbasket, scientists seek to help farmers boost their crop yields amid a drought. Professor Bilgehan Nas and his team from Konya Technical University have succeeded in using filtered wastewater for cultivating maize.
Their work may revive Konya Plain, a vast stretch of land used by thousands of farmers that has faced the threat and consequences of drought, both from climate change and excessive use of water in irrigation due to incorrect farming techniques.
Nas says they had higher yields with filtered wastewater compared to well water, “at least by 7%,” he told Demirören News Agency (DHA) on Tuesday. He added, though, that the yields were lower in beets when wastewater was applied.
In the absence of precipitation, water resources are precious for the Konya Plain, where groundwater levels dropped as low as 45 meters (147 feet) beneath the surface due to irrigation wasting water and the climate crisis, which has shrunk bodies of water.
Scientists are supported by the Partnership for Research and Innovation in the Mediterranean Area (PRIMA) program of the European Union, which aims to cultivate more sustainable water management. Water management is vital for Turkey where authorities acknowledge water scarcity. In cooperation with PRIMA and Turkish Water Institute, Nas and his team oversee part of a nationwide project where Konya serves as a pilot province. They used filtered wastewater in one half of a cornfield and well water in the other half to compare the yields.
Nas says filtered wastewater also has a value as fertilizer due to its ingredients, including nitrogen and phosphorus, but it may be detrimental to the crops when applied in periods outside its growth time. “We need more studies to chart a timetable for proper irrigation time with filtered wastewater and the impact of micropollutants on crops,” he noted.
Professor Süleyman Soylu from the Faculty of Agriculture at Konya’s Selçuk University says every water source is important for the region. “Konya Plain has agricultural fields amounting to 2 million hectares and only a part of the plain, up to 30%, can be irrigated. Precipitation levels are low, so, any additional water resource is valuable. I believe the use of processed water will open up larger areas to irrigation and in turn, will boost yields,” he says.