In 2020, the Torre Pacheco Agricultural Demonstration Center launched a technology transfer project on a cultivation of traditional citrus varieties, adapting the existing drip irrigation system to an underground localized irrigation system with the aim of “verifying the possible effects that the new installation may have both in saving water and herbicide and fertilizer products, as well as in agricultural work”, according to those responsible.
From the Torre Pacheco CDA they underline that “water scarcity is one of the main challenges of the 21st century that many societies around the world are already facing. Agriculture is one of the sectors with the highest rate of water impact, as it accounts for 65% of total consumption.
«This high percentage, together with an increasing number of areas whose available water resources are being reduced, raises the need to establish new models and irrigation techniques that increase the efficiency in the use of water and more so in a region such as Campo of Cartagena in which excess water can cause an increase in leachates to the Mar Menor, “they say.
This irrigation technique, they say, allows the contribution of water and nutrients to the soil in a localized way and below the surface, in a way that conditions and optimizes the growth of the roots and the development pattern of the plant.
Thus, this system makes possible a more efficient use of water, energy and fertilizers, positioning itself as the alternative that offers the best results at an economic, agronomic and ecological level. It presents the characteristics of the possibility of direct application of water and nutrients to the root system, a reduced surface moisture area, if not zero, and an absence of components of the irrigation system on the surface.
According to various authors from the IVIA (Valencia), Cebas (Murcia) and companies such as Azud or Saleplas, who evaluate the saving of water in the environment of 20%, this aspect is very important in a region so sensitive due to its proximity to the Mar Menor.
This type of installation requires very specific design, installation, operation and maintenance criteria to take advantage of all its advantages. The installation must incorporate the necessary elements for the detection and solution of clogging problems of emitters in the field (drainage collectors, suction cups, manometric intakes, valves or anti-suction devices) and must also have specific elements in the head.
The developers of the tool affirm that “the advantages have been demonstrated in terms of efficiency in the use of water from underground irrigation systems, a lower water supply and also a greater efficiency in the use of fertilizers. In addition, other potential benefits of underground irrigation should be highlighted, such as the reduction of fungal diseases since the aerial part is drier, a reduction in weeds, especially in arid climates as there is less humidity on the surface, a longer useful life of the pipes. dripper holders as they are not exposed to solar radiation and also facilitates the performance of some cultivation tasks as the pipes are not on the surface of the soil».
Those responsible for the project indicate that “with proper maintenance of the installation, important improvements can be obtained to optimize the consumption of water and fertilizers that overcome the inconveniences, such as the high cost of installation, the clogging of the emitters or the throttling of the hoses, so that their use can be extended, especially in woody plantations».
The total area of the trial is 1.10 hectares, of which 0.40 are planted with mandarin and early orange trees and 0.70 hectares with orange, grapefruit and lemon trees. A planting frame of 6 x 5 m was arranged, with a density of 350 trees per hectare with plateaus of 1.8 m. wide, with anti-grass mesh cover and irrigation system below it.
«By the year 2022 it is projected to reduce the contribution of nitrates following the data from the nitrate calculator, and provide slow-release and organic fertilizers, to go towards a fertilizer compatible with organic farming, which improves the biology of the soil and the mycorrhizae”, they indicate.
«In the test, the measurement of the irrigation doses used will be carried out by means of a general counter of the installation. As a control, there will be drainage collectors at the end of the line, which reduce the risk of clogging due to the accumulation of solids inside the pipes. Continuous pressure monitoring must also be carried out through the use of manometric outlets at different points of the installation and the control of valves and suction cups to avoid overpressure”, they explain.
The results and information obtained will allow knowing those varieties that have a better yield and adaptation to the conditions of our Region and will be made available to farmers, technicians and anyone interested on the Training and Technology Transfer Service website www.sftt.es . To publicize this project, an explanatory video of the process has been prepared, at the link https://youtu.be/-B1Vs0sCpaQ.
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