To achieve its objectives, the LIFE 4DOÑANA project relies on the demonstration of an innovative on-demand irrigation system for soil-based cultivation conditions. However, what is an on-demand irrigation system?
Current technologies and systems for irrigation & fertigation can be classified in three categories:
1. Traditional systems. The farmers take irrigation & nutrient decisions (duration and number of irrigation events per day, amount of fertilizers to be used…) based on their own experience or on general recommendations not specific for their farms.
2. Farmer-led (non-automated) Decision Support Systems. Farmers take irrigation & nutrient decisions using general and on-site specific data provided by monitoring stations installed in the fields. This permits the farmer to visualize and assess key conditions in their farm (e.g., humidity in the substrate) and to take, after reviewing general information (e.g., weather forecast), an irrigation & nutrient decision.
3. On-demand (automated) irrigation systems. The system collects the data from on-farm specific sensors and triggers irrigation automatically when specific values are reached. This reduces the intervention of the farmer to a periodic diagnosis and the definition of the values when irrigation/fertigation shall trigger, not needing to take daily decisions.
Due to the increasing pressures on water resources, the development and installation of on-demand DSS has received increasing attention during the last years, now existing different commercial models in the EU and in other regions.
Different results published internationally show how these models permit to reduce water use whilst maintaining or increasing the yields. Furthermore, previous assays in the project area, under soilless cultivation conditions, have also shown the potential and the technical feasibility of on-demand irrigation systems. However, the systems still need to be adapted to better monitor and respond to the heterogeneity of the conditions in soil-based farms.
These facts will make the LIFE 4DOÑANA on-demand irrigation system particularly interesting for strawberry cultivation in the Doñana area, where strawberry farming is mostly cultivated in soil-based farms.
Further details about the project on-demand irrigation system will be provided in upcoming posts.