This case study focuses on drip irrigation management in maize and tomato crop production in northern Italy.

VALERIE themes covered:
3. The management of agricultural soils as integrated agro-ecological systems ►
4. Water management in agriculture ►

In the province of Alessandria, water management for agricultural use is a key issue. Highly productive crops, such as maize and tomato, have a high nitrogen fertiliser requirement and a large water demand. Farmers are, therefore, adopting drip irrigation to improve water efficiency, without reducing yield and quality, even though the system is capital and time intensive. Specialised equipment is commercially available, but new innovations and solutions are still required.

Location: Alessandria, northern Italy
Main land use: arable production and viticulture
Stakeholders: farmers, suppliers of fertilisers and drip irrigation equipment, processing industries, seed and pesticides companies (retailers and producers)
Key issues:
o    Lack of knowledge about drip-system management: particularly interactions between irrigation timing, water volume and plant density
    Methods to protect the drip-tape from birds, rodents and click beetles
    Use of pesticides in the drip-system
    Multi-year drip irrigation system
o    Use of varieties/hybrids more resistant to hydric stress and pathogens
o    More knowledge required about the effect of nutrients on crop quality
o    Economic evaluation of the different irrigation systems (e.g. comparing drip irrigation and sprinkler systems), in terms of water volume and yield
o    Tools to evaluate an “effective” drip irrigation system

Case study updates:
• A kick off meeting was held in summer 2014 where problems and innovation needs were identified.

• A second meeting was held in late January 2015 with stakeholder members from the whole supply chain present; seed & pesticide companies, irrigation system suppliers, processors, co-operatives, farmers & advisors. The three most relevant VALERIE innovation factsheets to the case study were reviewed via a questionnaire and working groups. A field demonstration/trial topic was chosen by the stakeholders from a pre-identified list. The trial will focus on the use of probes and in-situ weather data to monitor the drip-irrigation system. The first year will comprise a monitoring activity and data collection.

Field trials:
• Issue to be addressed in the field trials:
o    Usability & economic evaluation of drip-system irrigation

• The field trials will be carried out directly in the fields of the stakeholders. The trial aims are:
o    To give farmers or co-operatives new tools and systems to manage the irrigation of maize and tomato crops e.g. using drip tapes and sprinklers. The focus is primarily on the usability of the innovation and on the economic evaluation at the farm scale.

• The trial started in May 2015.

Contact: Paolo Rendina; This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.