Sustainable irrigation strategy in fruit orchards: environmental impact at farm scale

A.N. Mininni, T. Berloco, C. Fausto, F. Manicone, B. Dichio, C. Xiloyannis
Climate change is gradually affecting regional and global food production. Warming temperatures and a greater incidence and intensity of extreme weather events may lead to significant reductions in crop yields. The LIFE AgroClimaWater project provides adaptation strategies to increase water productivity in fruit orchards, reducing pollution and resource use. Experimental trials were conducted in fruit orchards of citrus, peach and olive, that were divided into two plots: one managed with sustainable practices (no soil tillage, compost addition, mulching of pruning residues, cover crops and guided irrigation through optimized water balance, reduced Kc and monitoring of soil moisture) and another one traditionally managed (weeding, empirical addition of mineral fertilizers and empirical irrigation). Effectiveness of cultivation practices applied in sustainable plots was assessed by water productivity (WP), water footprint (WF), nutrient use efficiency (NUE); these parameters and indicators were compared to conventionally managed plots. Results revealed that the sustainable management leads to a maximum decrease of 11.64% in the WF, an increase in the WP till 13.28% and a nitrogen use efficiency (NUE) greater than 3 times in the sustainable orchard compared to the conventional one. The adoption of optimized irrigation management at farm scale, if properly adopted, could reduce the environmental impact at territorial level, increasing fruit quality and water productivity, with beneficial effect on natural resources (soil and water) conservation and restoration.
Mininni, A.N., Berloco, T., Fausto, C., Manicone, F., Dichio, B. and Xiloyannis, C. (2022). Sustainable irrigation strategy in fruit orchards: environmental impact at farm scale. Acta Hortic. 1335, 429-436
DOI: 10.17660/ActaHortic.2022.1335.53
soil moisture monitoring, water productivity, optimized water balance, nutrient loss, nitrate leaching

Acta Horticulturae