WC-4 Future Challenges and Solutions at the Water-Agriculture Nexus Part 1

Agricultural irrigation is vital to food production in many parts of the globe and a critical tool for ensuring food security. Irrigation serves both to reduce risk of crop loss but also to build resiliency and yield stability in food production systems. Irrigated agriculture provides 40% of the world’s food while being used on only 18% of the cultivated land. The United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization estimates that the world currently consumes about 70% of available fresh water for irrigation. Significant improvements in agricultural water use efficiency leading to more crop per drop must be a high priority across multiple disciplines of science in order to achieve sustainability. This session examines a variety of unique partnerships, initiatives, and technologies which address this issue.

Moderator: George Vellidis, Professor, Crop and Soil Science Department, University of Georgia


  • Rick Cruse, Professor of Agronomy, Iowa State University; Director, Iowa Water Center; and President, National Institutes for Water Resources
  • Casey Cox, Executive Director, Flint River Soil and Water Conservation District
  • Dan Devlin, Director, Kansas Center for Agricultural Resources and the Environment, Kansas Water Resources Institute, Kansas State University
  • Jonathan Radtke, Water Sustainability Program Director, Coca-Cola North America
  • George Vellidis, Professor, Crop and Soil Science Department, University of Georgia

Dr. George Vellidis applies principles of engineering and science to measure, model, and manage the interaction between agricultural production systems and the environment. Under this umbrella, he has developed two areas of emphasis—water resources and precision agriculture. Often these two areas blend. In this presentation he will discuss his partnership with the Flint River Soil & Water Conservation District and how they are working together to develop technological solutions to improve irrigation water use efficiency. The solutions include dynamic control of variable rate-enabled center pivot irrigation systems with embedded low-cost wireless soil moisture sensors. He will present a case study from the Lower Flint River Basin of Georgia. (229-402-1278; yiorgos@uga.edu)

Rick Cruse’s research program focuses on quantifying real-time soil erosion rates across the Midwest and its impact on crop yields. Additional efforts address soil erosion and water runoff impacts on water quality as well as soil management impacts on these environmental parameters. (515-294-7850; rmc@iastate.edu)

Casey Cox is the Executive Director of the Flint River Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD). In this role, she manages the Flint River Partnership, an agricultural water conservation initiative formed by the Flint River SWCD, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, and The Nature Conservancy of Georgia. Located in southwest Georgia, the Flint River Partnership’s primary objective is to strike a balance between the unique biodiversity of the Lower Flint River Basin and the region’s multi-billion dollar, irrigation-driven agricultural economy. Working with a diverse team of partners ranging from universities to corporations, the Flint River Partnership has secured millions of dollars to implement conservation-driven technology on hundreds of thousands of acres in the region through pilot projects and special Farm Bill Programs.

Dr. Daniel Devlin is a professor of agronomy and currently serves as the Director of the Kansas Center for Agricultural Resources and the Environment at the Kansas Water Resources Institute at Kansas State University. In his current position, his responsibilities include coordinating and enhancing research, extension, and teaching initiatives pertaining to new and emerging environmental issues from an agricultural perspective. He has responsibility for water quality and quantity programs as well as other environmental concerns, such as climate change, soil fertility, irrigation, watershed management, and interactions with state and federal agencies. Devlin is a native of Smith County, Kansas and has a BS and MS in from Kansas State University and a PhD from Washington State University. (785-532-9351; ddevlin@ksu.edu)

Jonathan Radtke is the Water Resource Sustainability Director for Coca-Cola North America in Atlanta, GA. In this role, he manages the company’s water stewardship program, which focuses on water conservation initiatives within manufacturing facilities, source water protection strategies, community water partnerships and sustainable agriculture initiatives within the supply chain. The company aims to return to nature and to communities an amount of water equivalent to the water used in Coca-Cola’s beverages and their production. Mr. Radtke’s leadership has helped position Coca-Cola as an industry leader in water stewardship.


  • Rick Cruse, Professor, Iowa State University
  • Reagan Waskom, Director, Colorado Water Institute, Colorado State University
  • George Vellidis, Professor, University of Georgia
  • Susan Varlamoff, Director, Office of Environmental Sciences, University of Georgia

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