Optimizing Water and Growth in Strawberries with Arsenic Stress

Greg Howard
29th April, 2024

Optimizing Water and Growth in Strawberries with Arsenic Stress

Image Source: Natural Science News, 2024

Key Findings

  • In the Bengal basin, replacing winter rice with strawberries reduces groundwater use by 88%
  • Strawberries need less water, yield more, and offer better economic returns than winter rice
  • Using drip irrigation and organic jute mulch increases strawberry yield and water productivity
In the Bengal basin, a region plagued by arsenic-contaminated groundwater, scientists have been searching for sustainable agricultural practices that not only reduce the risk of arsenic exposure but also conserve water. A recent study by researchers at Bidhan Chandra Krishi Viswa Vidyalaya has shed light on an innovative solution—replacing water-intensive winter rice with strawberry cultivation[1]. This shift could potentially ease the strain on groundwater resources and improve the livelihoods of farmers in the region. Arsenic contamination is a critical issue, with previous research showing that irrigation of winter rice with arsenic-laden water leads to its accumulation in the soil and the edible grains[2]. This poses a significant threat to both soil health and human well-being. To address this, scientists have been exploring alternative crops and irrigation methods to reduce arsenic levels in food and the environment. The study in question used the AquaCrop model to predict the effects of various irrigation and mulching scenarios on strawberry growth. AquaCrop is a tool that helps estimate crop performance based on water usage. It was calibrated and validated over three growing seasons, providing reliable predictions for canopy cover, soil water storage, and biomass of strawberries in arsenic-contaminated areas. The researchers tested a combination of nine drip-irrigation levels, three soil types, and four mulching materials. Drip irrigation is a method that delivers water directly to the plant's root zone, reducing water waste. The study found that the optimal irrigation level was 176 mm for clay loam soil in lowland areas and 189 mm for sandy clay loam in medium land areas. When combined with organic mulch made from locally sourced jute agrotextile, strawberries yielded 1.4 times higher and had 1.7 times greater water productivity compared to scenarios without mulch. Not only did strawberries require significantly less water than winter rice, but they also offered a better economic return for farmers. By switching to strawberries, groundwater extraction could be reduced by 88%, a substantial benefit for an area facing water scarcity and contamination challenges. This research builds on earlier findings that indicated strawberries as a lucrative alternative to winter rice, with a much lower arsenic load in the edible parts of the plant[2]. Moreover, it aligns with studies that have explored various irrigation patterns to reduce arsenic mobility and accumulation in rice grains[3]. The intermittent irrigation pattern, in particular, was shown to enhance rice productivity while decreasing arsenic content, suggesting that water management is key in controlling arsenic levels in crops. Further, the study complements research on the effects of water management regimes on arsenic and cadmium accumulation in rice cultivars[4]. It supports the notion that careful selection of crop varieties and irrigation practices can mitigate the uptake of harmful elements from the soil. The findings from Bidhan Chandra Krishi Viswa Vidyalaya's study demonstrate a promising path forward for the Bengal basin. By adopting strawberry cultivation and optimizing irrigation and mulching practices, farmers can not only protect their health and the environment but also improve their economic standing. This research offers a practical approach to agriculture in areas affected by arsenic contamination, showcasing how science can contribute to more sustainable and profitable farming practices.

AgricultureEnvironmentPlant Science


Main Study

1) Modelling the impact of different irrigation regimes and mulching on strawberry crop growth and water use in the arsenic-contaminated Bengal basin.

Published 26th April, 2024


Related Studies

2) Replacing winter rice in non-traditional areas by strawberry reduces arsenic bioaccumulation, and improves water productivity and profitability.


3) Arsenic mitigation in rice grain loading via alternative irrigation by proposed water management practices.


4) Water management affects arsenic and cadmium accumulation in different rice cultivars.


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