Connect models, forecasts and sensors.
Within the Hydrotech Project a new decision support system (DSS) for water management has been developed and tested by the companies. The system is based on: A water balance model based on FAO international standards , Continuous collecting data system of weather data Forecasts (3-7 days) , Use of sensor for monitoring the water status of the soil-plant system , Field hardware units that works as data’s acquisition and transfer point (through modern wireless technologies like WiFi, GPRS, ZigBee) , Software applications, and specific APP for smartphones, tablets, etc…
Systems for water distribution fixture’s automation and remote control . The real time availability of meteorological data allows to calculate the daily water balance for each crop, once defined the main characteristics of the soil, culture, and irrigation fixture (selecting specific parameters from the DSS database). The final user has the chance to value the variations of the water reserve of the soil, the water consumes by the crop and their stress status. Beside the DSS, allows to visualize information from sensors installed in the soil-plant system; in this way ,for example, it is possible to value the effect of the irrigation management on the water reserve available by measuring the water content for different depths.
Then the DSS processes an advice for the irrigation plans for the next days based on the weather forecasts and the restrictions imposed by the water availability of the company (pump’s technical characteristics, consortium shift, overall number of crops served etc..), in observance of management criteria selected by the user.
At last the irrigation command can be given through a mobile system that allows monitoring in real time the operating pressure, the hydrants and solenoid valve’s status of open\close and the water consumes (partial and cumulated) for each deliver\distribution point.
Water saving and reducing the Environmental Impact.
Beyond the industrial development of the DSS, the project has also started a great testing process on companies, to analyse the reliability of the help provided by the DSS for different cultures (fruits, table grapes, wine grapes, olive, and vegetables) and to value the ease on using the application by technicians and farmers.
For the main companies tested the comparison between the scores reached with the irrigation strategy by the DSS and the “current” strategy followed by the company, has been recorded a great water saving of 10 15%. That’s possible because of a better quantification of the crop’s water consumption and a more adequate calculation of the water volumes based on the effective water retention capacity of the soil.
Besides, when water resources are reduced or when we need to obtain a better production’s quality (fruits, wine vine…), the DSS can represent a valid help in “regulated irrigation deficit” strategy. The DSS infact, is able to simulate a different irrigation strategy depending on the culture’s stress during different phonological phases. At least, the constant monitoring of soil’s humidity level for different depths, allowed to identify the cases when the irrigation wasn’t adequate to the soil’s water retention capacity. This also allows to limit the water waste for deep drainage and the resulting solute’s leaching towards the groundwater and also to reduce the main environmental impacts connected to the agriculture use of water.