Development of an efficient water management system in commercial processing tomato farms

C. Campillo, J. Gordillo, L.M. Santiago, A. Cordoba, L. Martinez, M.H. Prieto, R. Fortes
The current rules of rational water use and widespread shortages have created a strong need to improve the efficiency of its use. New trends in processing tomato and new technologies permit better management of larger plots with high soil heterogeneities. This situation requires the technician to take an irrigation decision that can affect different areas of the crop differently, causing differences in production and crop quality. Estimation of the water needs of crops is usually assessed by water balance in the soil or by methods of calculating potential evapotranspiration. This methodology is influenced by climatic parameters and development of crop and soil texture. New technologies applied to irrigation management, such as precision agriculture, can help to make a schedule tailored to the real needs of each crop. The objective of this project was to establish a management system of a commercial plot, to facilitate better management of the water needs of the processing tomato crop and develop a model to adjust irrigation schedules adapted to the different characteristics of different irrigation sectors, from direct measurement in the field. For this study, a project was conducted for 2 years in commercial plots belonging to the ROMA Company. For efficient management of irrigation water, an irrigation model was developed based on the FAO 56 recommendation paper and adjusted to local conditions and water status. In the control zones, leaf water potential and percentage of ground cover were measured. These water status values allowed corrections and adjustment of the irrigation schedules with different thresholds as a function of the crop phenological status. This system allowed adjustment of the amount of water applied to different areas of irrigated plots and establishment of automatic corrections in real time. The accumulated degree days and canopy development permitted the irrigation needs and crop coefficients to be adjusted over theory calculations. Water potential measurements were used to increase irrigation recommendations by 10% when values were below established limits. The adjusted model permitted savings of up to 20% water in commercial fields and avoidance of situations of water stress or over-irrigation in different phenological stages of the crop. The model also permitted establishment of different deficit irrigation strategies.
Campillo, C., Gordillo, J., Santiago, L.M., Cordoba, A., Martinez, L., Prieto, M.H. and Fortes, R. (2017). Development of an efficient water management system in commercial processing tomato farms. Acta Hortic. 1159, 23-30
DOI: 10.17660/ActaHortic.2017.1159.4
ETc, FAO56, leaf water potential, irrigation scheduling, canopy cover, watermark

Acta Horticulturae