Benchmark Irrigated Under Cover Agriculture Crops
Published 2015 · Environmental Science
Abstract Managing water sustainably in a ‘green’ economy means using water more efficiently in all sectors and ensuring that ecosystems have the quantity and quality of water needed to function effectively. Despite the increasing demand for water and its scarcity in some regions in Europe and the Mediterranean basin, “water use efficiency” or Water Productivity, is claimed to be unsatisfactory. In many Southern European regions up to 85% of the water is consumed by agriculture. The expected climate change will worsen the situation as it will lead to hotter summers. In this paper an initial study to benchmark agricultural irrigation practices– here, protected cultivation - with the objective of evaluating and comparing the systems through performanceindicators that can be obtained from data routinely available at the field and farm level were presented and discussed. Benchmarking, a systematic process for detecting inefficiencies based on comparisons between similar systems, is a potential tool for identifying andtargeting problem areas. The benchmarking tool was based on the results of an FP7 EU-SIRRIMED. In the present study we use this tool in order to assess the performance of two contrasted production strategies (i) hi-tech horticultural production, exemplified by soil-less greenhouse-grown tomato crops with closed, semi closed and open irrigation techniques and (ii) low-tech screenhouse production, exemplified by soil grown sweet pepper under screenhouses having different shading factors. We found that a large margin of progress in water and fertilisers use efficiency is at hand of farmers, provided they can integrate to their farming practices innovative technologies (i.e closed hydroponic systems) or structures that are well adapted to the local climatic and biotic conditions (e.g. screenhouses).