Research project Rice remote monitoring: climate change resilience and agronomical management practices for regional adaptation


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General introduction

A quarter of all Colombian rice is grown in the Tolima region, where fields are irrigated with water from the Coello irrigation district. Local farmers don't know the actual crop water demand, and consequently they generally irrigate excessively. This results in water shortages during the growing season, but this excess of water also results in high methane emissions, which is an important greenhouse gas. Therefore we aim to map the crop water status using remote sensing from drones and satellites, to better tune the irrigation scheduling to the crop water demand.

In this way we want to increase the likelihood of stable harvests in a changing climate, which will also increase the financial resilience of local farms. Improved scientific insights in the effects of climate change on local cultivation will allow to formulate more well-founded practical guidelines for the farmers in the region. This project will also focus on making local government more aware of the importance of preparing for the effects of climate change.

Research approach

Together with University of Ibagué and Agrosavia (Colombian partners) we focus on knowledge gain and application of smart irrigation scheduling in rice cultivation in Tolima, in a changing climate. Therefore, we will apply drone and satellite technology, in combination with machine learning and crop modelling, as a complement to the existing irrigation infrastructure. We will locally embed these climate adaptation strategies, because this project is carried out in consultation with local farmers and stakeholders (e.g. UsoCoello).


Climate change models predict that Colombia is classified as 'very vulnerable'. Moreover, the land area suitable for rice cultivation is expected to decline by 60%, mostly because rainfall patterns are changing. An adapted irrigation strategy in rice cultivation is therefore absolutely necessary. However, local farmers and stakeholders is still not very aware of this threat. Apart from application in the field, this project therefore also provides more consiousness on climate change.