The experience

 

Thanks to the Hydrotech project, an intense testing activity has been started and followed in the whole Apulia to analyse main problems in water management and to value new application of newborn technologies in business management.

ENERGY CONSUMPTION AND PUMPING LIMITATIONS.

The water pumping from own wells allows many farms to provide to water need by themselves and to delate external restrictions about irrigation planning (for example the rota system for consortium supply).

Otherwise, according to Giacomo Gigante, owner of a vegetable and olive company in Conversano : ‘’The main problem is the rising amount of energy costs connected to the water pumping”. A similar opinion has been expressed by Prof. Francesco Marinelli, owner of an olive company in Ruvo and professor at the Technical Agricultural Institute of Andria : “Reducing the consumption of electricity (whose price increased by 45% in the last 3 years) is fundamental to cut production costs and to optimize the company balance.”

Besides, the five-year authorization for water pumping from wells released by public institution, restrictions for volumes and flow rate available: “and this can be a real disadvantage if not related to the effective physiological crop needs and to the company size”.

The pumping restrictions are even more limiting for all that companies who are in the “sea contaminated area”.

According to Gianfranco Favuzzi, from the vegetable company Sempreverde, “This limits the production planning (transplant era, cultures, irrigation strategy…); otherwise following the “traditional scheme” for irrigation we used the authorized amount of water planned for five years in just three years.”

The high energetic costs and the pumping water limitations are the reasons why it’s important to rationalize the water use.

 

IRRIGATION TECHNIQUE AND IMPACTS ON PRODUCTION

Irrigation planning is often committed to the experience of the farm labourer. According to Giannangelo Bocuzzi, winemaker in Rutigliano, “In absence of rational criterion for evaluate the water need of the crop it’s preferred to irrigate in excess. A technique’s improvement (that holds even the specific varietal demand) may allow to restraint consumptions while improving the water use’s efficiency.”

That’s true especially for many vegetable cultures: farmers are nowadays pushed to adopt irrigation strategies that allow to have first-rate cultures, in an economic and environmental sustainability view.

According to Angelo Abbracciavento, fruit and vegetables and olive producer form the Moccari farm in Mesagne: “The determination of the right amount of water to bring is a fundamental process. In fact a less-irrigation can cause the decrease of production’s volume and quality, but the over-irrigation brings an increased water wasted, a grown need of nutrients by the culture and the risk of environmental pollution.

Focusing on the olive tree’s case, the opinion of Giacomo Gigante is:” The objective of minimizing the water brought is fundamental because of the lacking crop performance”, in fact, as said by Professor Marinelli “This culture often grows in non-homogenous soil and poor effective soil depth conditions. We ran the risk of ignoring the real crop needs, such as execution time and volumes given.”

Otherwise, about the grapevine, it’s important to carefully consider the effects of irrigation on final product’s quality. According to Filippo Montanaro, manager of the wine company Amastuola in Massafra “the right rescue-irrigation management is an important way for achieving a balance between quality and quantity results, looking at the peculiarity of each vine and avoiding the risk of stimulate an extra vegetative vigour.”

A similar opinion has been expressed by Doc. Nicola Scarano, technical manager of the Cooperativa Cantina Due Palme in Cellino San Marco, who affirmed that: “in some areas and in particular vines of white grapes it’s fundamental to keep making the irrigation operations until the phonological phase of veraison, keeping high the acid level and following the productive levels admitted by specific production dispositions.”

What’s the new technologies expectation?

The companies involved in the trail agreed that new technologies applied to irrigation management could promote a more rational way to irrigate, an economic saving while making the irrigation planning more “conscious”.

According to professor Marinelli, “The knowledge of weather variables associated to a right water balance setting, allows to rationalize water interventions and to reduce inputs. Otherwise automation and the system’s remote control provide to distribute interventions during 24h, while reducing expensive manual interventions, during the maximum water request moments.”

Instead, according to Doc. Scarano “the chance to anticipate and manage the crop water stress through balance models calibrated on single soli-variety combination it’s fundamental to provide a perfect vine maturation. This could be reached with an adequate field testing process, while connecting meteorological information collected in real time with continuous monitoring of soil humidity values”.

In accordance with Abbracciavento, the tested system “Provided a more rational use of the water resource while reducing consumptions and costs, keeping the same quality and quantity performances and increasing culture’s profitability.”

Experience gained in different contexts confirmed that farmers and technicians are more and more directed toward a sustainable management. Otherwise there’s a growing demand of decision support devices for irrigation planning that allows to increase crop profitability, to reduce water and energy consumptions while observing restrictions imposed by environmental laws.