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This project aims to contribute to the necessary improvement of water management in woody crops of great interest to Spain and countries of the Mediterranean basin, such as almond tree under traditional farming system and high crop density and pomegranate, a crop in expansion and very well adapted to limiting conditions of water and its quality. The subproject is based on the need to have a precise knowledge of the response of the crop to water deficit, both physiological and agronomic, to develop criteria and strategies for scientific programming of Controlled Deficit Irrigation (RDC) and that, for its precise implementation, need equipment and tools that are easily accessible to the agricultural sector, such as low-cost sensors and models of automatic programming of irrigation. Through the objectives set, the aim is to study in depth the water relations in the soil-plant-atmosphere continuum by using new modelling techniques with the acquisition and statistical and mathematical treatment of more complete and transversal databases, where the surface temperature of the canopy and multispectral images play an important role. To facilitate this objective, the subproject contemplates as parallel objectives: i) the improvement of self-designed multiparametric sensors, ii) the assembly of a platform for research on plant indicators, that can be used for the automatic and controlled obtaining of a large number of thermal and multispectral images, iii) the integration of measurement nodes in wireless sensor network systems and iv) the design and training of a decision-making aid model (DSS), trained with indicators of the water status of the soil and plant for the automatic programming of irrigation. The marked final objective of this subproject aims to combine the advantages of the use of deficit irrigation strategies controlled in fruit crops of pomegranate and almond trees, in areas with low water availability, with the use of new technologies in the field of modeling and ICTs. The great sensitivity developed by farmers and entrepreneurs in semi-arid areas for the optimal use of water has generated an open mind to try and adopt new forms of management and acquisition of technologies that can result in a more efficient use of available water resources.
The main objective of this subproject is to contribute to the improvement of agricultural water management in woody crops located at the Mediterranean basin. Carrying out an optimal water resources management requires to accurately know the crop response to water deficit at both physiological and agronomic levels. The Regullated Deficit Irrigation is a complex method since many factors, related to the Soil-Plant-Atmosphere continuum and its high variability should be taking into account. This is the reason for which reliable measurement systems that continuously measure plant and soil water status, on real time, should be developed and deployed, before automating the irrigation procedure. Even though there are many commercial sensors able to measure certain parameters that provide information about the soil water potential or the plant water status, and it would be ideal to use such information as support for decision making and irrigation automation, they are barely deployed in real crops, since their economical cost is high, signal management is difficult and properly defining thresholds is also rather hard. Because of this, the proposed project is focused on developing a technique that allows a suitable implementation of the RDI by considering three major issues: a) The need of designing appropriate sensors, measurement techniques and interfaces capable of measuring parameters that represent the amount of water in soil in a clear, easy-to-understand and more direct manner. Such sensors should be easy to install and they should deliver reliable measurements providing enough variability. b) The need of determining better indexes and signs to estimate the water stress in the studied crops, such as the CWSI that allows the information about top tree and air temperature to be acquired. Data acquisition and term-radiometry equipment installation should be made as easy as possible, by taking autonomous systems based on Wireless Sensor Networks (WSNs). c) The need of adopting DSS-Decision Support Systems that allow stakeholders to define the required parameters for reliably programming the RDI. Thus, techniques for managing big data volumes obtained from the Soil-Plant-Atmosphere continuum, and autolearning methods to adapt the variability of the received information, should be also considered and properly developed.
The project is based on the need to have a precise knowledge of crop response to water deficit, both agronomical and physiological level, to develop precise regulated deficit irrigation (RDI) scheduling. The data acquisition for evaluating the plant water status and the irrigation scheduling automation lies in the use of both manual and continuous measurements of soil and plant water status. The objective marked of this finalist project aims to combine the advantages of using deficit irrigation strategies in commercial orchards in areas with limited water availability with the use of new technologies.