Tuesday, 24 November 2020

Drones to help fight drought in Czech Republic

ČTK |
11 July 2017

Prague, July 10 (CTK) - Drones will search for and map old draining systems in the farmland all over the Czech Republic within the fight against drought that has hit the country for three years in a row, daily Lidove noviny (LN) wrote on Monday.

The original function of the systems was to drain water from the landscape for decades, but they can be modified to retain it in the soil instead.

"There is no comprehensive documentation of the draining systems. We do not know exactly where they are and in what condition," Agriculture Minister Marian Jurecka (Christian Democrats, KDU-CSL) told LN.

Drones will take aerial photographs that will be used to create a register of the systems.

They can be found easily since the ground above them looks different because of another humidity level and a different type of vegetation grows there, which is visible from high above, LN says.

Yet draining systems cannot be identified absolutely everywhere, Pavel Novak, head of the water protection section of the Research Institute for Soil and Water Conservation (VUOMP), said.

However, under suitable conditions, drones are able to identify them with a ten-centimetre accuracy, LN adds.

Apart from draining systems, water disappeared from the landscape because of the planting of spruce forests on the nobility's land.

LN says the most extensive draining systems were built during the communist regime in the 1970s and 80s as a consequence of the establishment of large collective farms.

Nevertheless, draining systems have never been mapped completely.

One of the reasons is the restitution process after the collapse of the communist regime in 1989 when the property, including farmland and forests, confiscated unlawfully was returned to the original owners or their heirs.

The new land owners also received drainage systems in their land, but only a few of them took over the project documentation as well and most of them are leasing their farmland to other private entities now, LN writes.

The overall structure of draining systems is owned by the state, while the area drainage belongs to the land owners who are obliged to look after the equipment, LN writes.

The creation of a detailed register of draining systems with the aid of drones is one of many systemic measures against drought.

The Agriculture Ministry plans to spend 13.6 billion crowns on the fight with drought until 2021.

This year, it launched a programme of building irrigation systems in fields and orchards. It also wants to restore bosks and balks to retain water, which were largely destroyed during the collectivisation of farmland in the 1950s, as well as ponds and wetlands, LN writes.

Besides, the rules of farming will be tightened. Farmers will have to alternate crops in their fields not to exhaust the soil extensively, for instance, LN writes.

The paper also writes that the ground water level in the Czech Republic has approached the minimum in history. Since 1961, the country has suffered from the most severe drought at the beginning of the 1990s and then in 2015 and 2016 when the highest number of water springs with the minimum water level and intensity was also registered, according to the government Concept of the Protection from Drought Consequences in the Czech Republic.

Vysocina, South Moravia and Bohemia, Olomouc and Pardubice are the regions most afflicted by drought, LN adds.

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