CLIENT II - FarmImpact 

Development of sustainable water and energy concepts on farms in South Africa 

Against the backdrop of the water scarce situation in the Western Cape of South Africa substantial water savings have to be realised also in irrigated agricultural and horticultural production in order to suplly sufficient drinking water to the population. Thus the motto must be „producing more with less water“. First pilot trials in the region by our group have shown that a substantial reduction of plant transpiration of up to 20 % in the irrigation season is realistically achievable by merely reducing the wind speed, which is a major driver of transpirational water losses. This was achieved by designing wind breaks in a spatially optimal manner. The FarmImpact project uses modern technology such as simulation based spatial wind field modelling, ecophysiologic measurements, drone and satellite based remote sensing and precision agriculture to determine the exact water needs of the crop in a spatial manner. This information is used to provide a spatially explicit plan for establishing wind breaks from trees which will reduce the transpiration of the crop. Part of the project is to test also indigenous tree species for their use as wind breaks instead of only relying on exotic species. The scrutinisation of the interaction of the crop with the windbreak trees is a focus of the FarmImpact project. The scientific results are used in a full economic cost-benefit analysis and integrated in a commercial software tool that enables consultants to apply our technology in a practical planning process in order to reduce water consumption substantially in irrigated production systems.

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The main project objective is to contribute to a water-smart agriculture, horticulture and viticulture in the dry environment of the Western Cape by developing a method to determine irrigation needs in agriculture, horticulture and viticulture exactly and to control irrigation optimally in order to reduce water consumption. This variable rate application is achieved by establishing wind breaks in a spatial optimum manner in order to reduce transpirational water losses of crops. The novel planning method is cast into a software tool for future application.

The results of the FarmImpact project will help to produce grapes, fruits, and field crops with using a substantially reduced amount of irrigation water.  This means a smaller allocation of water to agricultural production and hence more water for drinking.  

Methodology and deliverables

Comprehensive microclimatic and ecohysiological measurements will be conducted on different field sites to calculate the water use of different crops depending from soil conditions, weather and irrigation regimes. A detailed database on crop performances and microclimate data will be integrated into a state-of-the-art crop modelling approach. Spatial variability of crop stress index and crop growth will be evaluated by microdrones (including NDVI and Infra-red data). Based on the field measurements and crop modelling results we will develop software-based calculation for in-time irrigation on a daily base. For the optimization of water use efficiency of crops and  farm level, we use modern wind field modelling approaches to improve the shelterbelt design. Economical and ecological  feassibility will be investigated to allow a sustainable transfer of the scientific absed results into application on farms in South Africa. Finally  an application tool (internet or smartphone app) will be developed to link the in-field measurements and the the irrigation intervals and amounts in real-time.  


-- 2020 --

-- 2019 --

  • Veste, M., Berger, T.,  du Toit, B., Kast, G., Littmann, T., Loetze, E., Priesack, E., Seifert, T.,  and the FarmImpact Team (2019)  FarmImpact - Development of Sustainable Water and Energy Solutions for Farms in South Africa. Abstract (ID 960) Tropentag, Kassel, 20. September 2019.
  • Veste, M., Littmann, T., Keunneke, A., Du Toit, B. (2019) Redesign agricultural landscapes towards climate-smart agriculture: integration of shelterbelts reduce evapotranspiration in vineyards in the Western Cape, South Africa. 49. Annual Meeting GfÖ, 09-13. September  2019, Münster, Germany. (Poster) Verhandlungen der Gesellschaft für Ökologie 49: 303.

Research partners

  • Helmholtz Zentrum München, Institut für Biochemische Pflanzenpathologie
  • University of Hohenheim, Chair of Land-Use Economics, Hans-Ruthenberg-Institute
  • CEBra - Centre for Energy Technology Brandenburg e.V. Cottbus 
  • Scientes Mondium UG (SME)
  • DLC - Dr. Littmann Consulting (SME)
  • Umweltanalytische Produkte GmbH (SME)
  • Stellenbosch University, South Africa
    • Department of Viticulture and Oenology 
    • Department of Forest and Wood Science 
    • Department of Agricultural Economics 
    • Department of Horticulture 
    • Centre for Geography and Environmental Sensing 
  • Backsberg Winefarm (SME) , 
  • Babylonstoren WInefarm (SME)

Associated research partners

  • Western Cape Government , Department of Agriculture
  • Winetech 
  • Water Research Commission 


  © Maik Veste 2017-2020 Last update: APRIL 2020