New open-source tool for agricultural water management

The AquaCrop-OS model and documentation can be downloaded for free at

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has launched the AquaCrop-OS website, which provides an open-source tool for agricultural water management. The free software tool is an extension of FAO’s AquaCrop model, a crop water productivity model that was first developed in 2009, and enables scientists and practitioners to explore the economic, social, and environmental implications of agricultural water use.

“Like many traditional crop models, AquaCrop can’t be combined or integrated easily with other software tools to understand the broader economic, social, and environmental implications of agricultural water use,” Tim Foster, lecturer in water-food security at the University of Manchester, told The Source. “In 2015, researchers began to develop AquaCrop-OS. The unique feature is that it can be quickly linked with other hydrologic, economic, or ecologic models. Importantly, this enables users to assess how agricultural water use affects catchment hydrology, and, in turn, design solutions to enhance food security in water-scarce regions.”

Globally, there are growing demands to produce more food with less pressure on water resources and the environment. Mathematical models that simulate how crops respond to water are powerful tools for addressing this complex challenge. These models become much more valuable if they are easily and widely accessible to researchers and others who can integrate them with other management software.

Farm managers, policymakers, researchers and other practitioners can use the AquaCrop-OS tool, developed by an international group of researchers, for water use decision-making from the field to the basin scales.

“Irrigation underpins agricultural productivity, but in many regions, extraction affects significantly the availability of water for other sectors and the environment,” said Nick Brozovic, Director of Policy, Water for Food Global Institute, University of Nebraska. “Depletion of groundwater resources is also a growing problem in many areas of the world. If not addressed, this depletion will have negative long-term implications for agricultural productivity and farmers’ ability to adapt to climate change. AquaCrop-OS removes many of the barriers previously faced when trying to apply crop models to understand these types of complex interdisciplinary challenges.”

AquaCrop-OS has a number of innovative features that are valuable to those interested in improving agricultural water management, including: support for multiple operating systems, capacity to integrate with high-performance computing resources, such as models for assessing climate change impacts on agriculture, and ability to quickly and effectively link with other water resources management tools, even if the software has been developed in a different programming language.