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Sustainable Orchard Irrigation for Improving Fruit Quality and Safety


About 70% of water resources are dedicated to irrigation in Mediterranean Countries, implying that any increase in irrigation water use efficiency (WUE) will save a significant amount of water. This appears to be the most efficient and straightforward means to comply with the EU water policy, mainly in areas with high level of water stress on the aquifers, where it is compulsory to reduce and eliminate the gap between extraction and recharge. At a mean term horizon, part of the saved water could be available for other agricultural, industrial and domestic uses. On the other hand, the conservation and preservation of water resources, and its better use by farmers will enhance the sustainability of irrigated farming systems (lower input farming systems).

The overall final objective of IRRIQUAL to develop and validate an irrigation management model that will allow to simulate realistically the behaviour of the soil-tree system, and to apply this model for the design and management of more sustainable and efficient irrigation techniques.

  Research objectives:

  1. To improve irrigation water management and efficiency at long and short term,ensuring quality of water and optimizing water applications by predicting plant needs.
  2. To investigate the effects of irrigation water quality and quantity on product quality and safety.
  3. To identify suitable physiological parameters signaling drought pre-stress in crops (direct exploitation of plant-water relations for optimized water usage).
  4. Assuring irrigation water quality to be free from water-borne bio-contaminants by analysing the effects of some new alternative technologies (based on ultrasounds) on pathogenic microorganisms and algae.

  Socio-economic objectives:

  1. To improve quality and safety of crop products by means of rational use of water and fertilizers for irrigation.
  2. To improve water management exploiting resources of wastewater usable for crop irrigation.
  3. To establish the socio-economic implications of the new irrigation applications proposed in the project.

   Innovative and technological objectives expected for dissemination:

  1. Development of fruit tree models, including the effects of irrigation water management: ( (i) water balance in the soil model (ii) whole tree model (iii) fruit quality and safety model. Use of these models as a simulation tool for optimizing regulated deficit irrigation (RDI) practices, fertilization and cultural practices (management model).
  2. Development of hardware and software for automated control of irrigation based on drought sensor signals and explored plant-water relationships.
  3. Development of alternative technologies (prototypes and protocols) for disinfections of poor quality irrigation water stored in ponds. . Development of Best Management Practices for sustainable irrigation adapted to different locations and tree species. The final goals of the BMP’s will be high levels of fruit quality and safety under increased water productivity.

- IRRIQUAL is co-funded by the European Commission, DG Research, within the 6th Framework Programme of RTD, Priority 5 - Food quality and safety.

- The views and opinions expressed in this website are purely those of the writers  and may not in any circumstances be regarded as stating an official position of the European Commision.