Agricultural Practices to Improve Irrigation Sustainability

A special issue of Water (ISSN 2073-4441). This special issue belongs to the section "Water, Agriculture and Aquaculture".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (20 August 2023) | Viewed by 14334

Special Issue Editors


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Guest Editor
Institute of Earth Sciences (ICT-Evora)/Polytechnic Institute of Beja, 7800-295 Beja, Portugal
Interests: environmental risk assessment; water quality; ecotoxicology bioassays; pesticides
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Guest Editor
GeoBioTec, NOVA School of Science and Technology/Polytechnic Institute of Beja, 7800-295 Beja, Portugal
Interests: soil and water conservation; water use efficiency; soil salinity; irrigation water quality; irrigation management
Special Issues, Collections and Topics in MDPI journals

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Water is the main limiting factor in agricultural production in regions affected by water scarcity, where annual or seasonal rainfall is insufficient to satisfy the water requirements of crops. In fact, food production and water use are inextricably linked. Globally, agriculture accounts for 72% of water withdrawals, mainly for irrigation. Irrigated agriculture plays a key role in feeding the world’s population, responsible for 40% of the global food production in only 20% of cultivated land.

An increase in irrigated land productivity in recent years has been achieved thanks to the technological development of agriculture; however, pressures on the world’s land, soil, and water resources have also been derived. An increase in the use of plant protection products and fertilizers, the uptake of farm mechanization, or inadequate irrigation management may lead to the loss of soil health by salinization, erosion, or contamination, as well as an increase in pollution processes in surface or groundwater resources. Therefore, the misuse of irrigation through inadequate practices can affect ecosystems and the services they provide.

To ensure food security and to mitigate the effects of water scarcity resulting from climate change, it is essential to improve the efficiency and productivity of water use for crop production, while preserving natural resources from the negative environmental impact that can be associated with irrigation.

Rather than focusing on the problems, this Special Issue focuses on the available agroecological practices, deciphers which options are better, explores which soil indicators are most sensitive to irrigation practices, and assesses the advances in technology in order to improve the sustainability of irrigation agriculture with the most effective management actions.

Therefore, we invite researchers to contribute to this Special Issue on “Agricultural practices to improve irrigation sustainability” and to develop a set of reference publications on this subject in order to promote the resilience and the efficiency of irrigated agroecosystems.

Prof. Dr. Patrícia Palma
Dr. Alexandra Tomaz
Guest Editors

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Keywords

  • irrigation efficiency
  • agroecology in irrigated agriculture
  • irrigation management practices
  • advances in irrigation technologies
  • soil health indicators

Published Papers (10 papers)

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Editorial

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5 pages, 1034 KiB  
Editorial
Agricultural Practices to Improve Irrigation Sustainability
by Patrícia Palma and Alexandra Tomaz
Water 2024, 16(6), 817; https://doi.org/10.3390/w16060817 - 11 Mar 2024
Viewed by 622
Abstract
Water is the main limiting factor in agricultural production in regions where the annual or seasonal rainfall is insufficient for the water requirements of crops [...] Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Agricultural Practices to Improve Irrigation Sustainability)
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Research

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18 pages, 4554 KiB  
Article
Effect of Deficit Irrigation on Growth Parameters of the Salvia splendens L. Plant
by Işık Sezen, Sevda Yağanoğlu, Elif Akpınar Külekçi and Ayşe Karahan
Water 2023, 15(23), 4187; https://doi.org/10.3390/w15234187 - 04 Dec 2023
Viewed by 942
Abstract
This study aims to investigate alterations in the developmental parameters of Salvia splendens L., a commonly utilized seasonal flower associated with excessive water consumption in urban green spaces, through the implementation of deficit irrigation practices. Four distinct irrigation treatments, which entailed maintaining the [...] Read more.
This study aims to investigate alterations in the developmental parameters of Salvia splendens L., a commonly utilized seasonal flower associated with excessive water consumption in urban green spaces, through the implementation of deficit irrigation practices. Four distinct irrigation treatments, which entailed maintaining the evaporation pot’s water level at 100% (control), 75%, 50%, and 25% of the pot’s water-holding capacity, were established. This study scrutinized 18 growth parameters to assess the impact of varying water application levels. The findings of this research revealed that Salvia splendens L. plants exhibited more substantial improvements in 17 out of 18 assessed parameters when subjected to 75% water application (representing a 25% reduction in water supply) in comparison to 100% water application (with no reduction). Notably, the only parameter negatively affected by reduced water availability in Salvia splendens L. was the diameter of the flowers. Thus, it is recommended to reduce water application by 25% when cultivating Salvia splendens L. in urban areas. Such a measure is expected to yield substantial water conservation benefits in urban landscaping. Consequently, it is advisable to promote the frequent utilization of Salvia splendens L. plants in urban green spaces, given their robust development even under conditions of water scarcity. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Agricultural Practices to Improve Irrigation Sustainability)
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14 pages, 2312 KiB  
Article
Spatiotemporal Economic Analysis of Corn and Wheat Production in the Texas High Plains
by Aminun Naher, Lal K. Almas, Bridget Guerrero and Sania Shaheen
Water 2023, 15(20), 3553; https://doi.org/10.3390/w15203553 - 12 Oct 2023
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 700
Abstract
The aim of this study is to visualize the historical changes in wheat and corn cropping patterns in the Texas High Plains from the perspective of geographical concentration and spatial autocorrelation. Historical county-level agricultural census data were collected from the United States Department [...] Read more.
The aim of this study is to visualize the historical changes in wheat and corn cropping patterns in the Texas High Plains from the perspective of geographical concentration and spatial autocorrelation. Historical county-level agricultural census data were collected from the United States Department of Agriculture and the National Agricultural Statistics Service from 1978 to 2017. Exploratory data analysis techniques were employed to examine the geographical concentration and spatial dependence of crop production among nearby locations. The results of temporal changes indicate that the harvested acres of corn and wheat tended to decrease throughout the study period. Total and irrigated harvested corn and wheat acreages were concentrated in a smaller number of counties over time while wheat production was mainly concentrated in the northern part of the region. The Moran’s I test statistic for total and irrigated areas of cropland suggest that there was spatial dependence among the neighboring counties in crop production in this region. In summary, there was a spatiotemporal change in cropping patterns in the Texas High Plains over the study period. Based on the results of the spatiotemporal changes in cropping patterns in the Texas High Plains, policy makers should promote and support non-irrigated varieties of crops in order to decrease the dependence on irrigation water from the Ogallala Aquifer. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Agricultural Practices to Improve Irrigation Sustainability)
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24 pages, 13232 KiB  
Article
Management Techniques of Ancestral Hydraulic Systems, Nasca, Peru; Marrakech, Morocco; and Tabriz, Iran in Different Civilizations with Arid Climates
by Doris Esenarro, Jesica Vilchez, Marie Adrianzen, Vanessa Raymundo, Alejandro Gómez and Pablo Cobeñas
Water 2023, 15(19), 3407; https://doi.org/10.3390/w15193407 - 28 Sep 2023
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 1411
Abstract
The research aims to evaluate various management techniques of Ancient Hydraulic Systems (AHS) in different civilizations in arid climates, in cities located in Nasca in Perú (Puquio), Marrakech in Marruecos (Khettara) andTabriz in Irán (Qanat). The scarcity of water resources in these areas [...] Read more.
The research aims to evaluate various management techniques of Ancient Hydraulic Systems (AHS) in different civilizations in arid climates, in cities located in Nasca in Perú (Puquio), Marrakech in Marruecos (Khettara) andTabriz in Irán (Qanat). The scarcity of water resources in these areas compelled the inhabitants to seek water management solutions to meet the necessary water supply for the population at the time. The methodology employed was a case study in which climatic data, supply, and operation of AHS were analyzed. The different indicators studied resulted in findings that, in the case of Nasca, the system relied on lintels, utilizing robust materials such as stone. They employed geometry to control water flow velocity, inclined walls to prevent collapses, and terraces to facilitate access to underground galleries. In the cases of Tabriz and Marrakech, their systems were based on excavations and reinforcements primarily using clay and earth as materials. In conclusion, the techniques employed in different civilizations are responses to contextual realities, offering an adaptive solution to environmental and physical challenges with a sustainable focus within their immediate surroundings. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Agricultural Practices to Improve Irrigation Sustainability)
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18 pages, 2927 KiB  
Article
Cost-Effectiveness of Sustainable Agricultural Water Policies: Source Switching versus Irrigation Buyout Auctions in Georgia’s Lower Flint River Basin
by Jeffrey D. Mullen and Yizhou Niu
Water 2023, 15(19), 3381; https://doi.org/10.3390/w15193381 - 27 Sep 2023
Viewed by 612
Abstract
In this paper, a new methodology for comparing the cost-effectiveness of sustainable agricultural water policies during times of drought is developed. The methodology explicitly accounts for regional economic impacts from policy implementation and uncertainty related to drought frequency. The methodology is applied to [...] Read more.
In this paper, a new methodology for comparing the cost-effectiveness of sustainable agricultural water policies during times of drought is developed. The methodology explicitly accounts for regional economic impacts from policy implementation and uncertainty related to drought frequency. The methodology is applied to two policy options being considered by the state of Georgia in the lower Flint River basin: irrigation buyout auctions and source switching. The results demonstrate the following: (1) the importance of modeling uncertainty associated with both the frequency and timing of drought, and the hydrologic effects of source switching; (2) as the frequency of drought increases, the cost-effectiveness of irrigation buyout auctions decreases. Failure to incorporate the regional economic impacts of each policy significantly underestimates the costs of both, but more so for irrigation buyout auctions than source switching. The ability to proactively manage the uncertainty associated with source switching through research and the judicious site selection of new irrigation wells increases its cost-effectiveness. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Agricultural Practices to Improve Irrigation Sustainability)
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20 pages, 3102 KiB  
Article
The Use of Mixed Composed Amendments to Improve Soil Water Content and Peach Growth (Prunus persica (L.) Batsch) in a Mediterranean Environment
by Onofrio Cappelluti, Maria Roberta Bruno, Anna Francesca Modugno, Rossana Monica Ferrara, Liliana Gaeta, Gabriele De Carolis and Pasquale Campi
Water 2023, 15(9), 1708; https://doi.org/10.3390/w15091708 - 27 Apr 2023
Viewed by 1259
Abstract
Reduction of water availability imposes the agronomic issues of increasing the storage capacity of the soil and improving the use of rainwater or irrigation water. A field experiment in 2021 was conducted in a 5-year-old peach orchard in a Mediterranean environment to study [...] Read more.
Reduction of water availability imposes the agronomic issues of increasing the storage capacity of the soil and improving the use of rainwater or irrigation water. A field experiment in 2021 was conducted in a 5-year-old peach orchard in a Mediterranean environment to study the effect of mixed composed amendments (ACM), applied in different amounts, on the dynamics of soil water status. Water balance was monitored during the peach vegetative reproductive cycle on a daily scale. Three treatments of mixed composed amendments (ACM) were compared: A0, control; A1, with amendment (10 t ha−1); and A2, with half dose of amendment (5 t ha−1). On a seasonal scale, soil water content increased by 27% and 33% in A1 and A2 compared to A0, while relative extractable water varied between 0.41 (A0) and 0.65 (A1 and A2). Both soil water balance indicators show that storage capacity increases with the addition of amendment. Improved soil storage capacity was associated with higher values of stem water potential (throughout the growing season) and stomatal conductance (at the end of the season). Shoot and fruit growth observations were consistent with soil water content dynamics. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Agricultural Practices to Improve Irrigation Sustainability)
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16 pages, 18265 KiB  
Article
Noninvasive Monitoring of Subsurface Soil Conditions to Evaluate the Efficacy of Mole Drain in Heavy Clay Soils
by Akram Aziz, Ronny Berndtsson, Tamer Attia, Yasser Hamed and Tarek Selim
Water 2023, 15(1), 110; https://doi.org/10.3390/w15010110 - 29 Dec 2022
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 2084
Abstract
Soil degradation and low productivity are among the major agricultural problems facing farmers of the newly reclaimed agricultural area in the Nile Delta region, Egypt. High content of clay and silt characterizes the soil texture of all farms in the area, while farmers [...] Read more.
Soil degradation and low productivity are among the major agricultural problems facing farmers of the newly reclaimed agricultural area in the Nile Delta region, Egypt. High content of clay and silt characterizes the soil texture of all farms in the area, while farmers still rely on the traditional mole drainage (MD) system to reduce the salinity of the farm soil. We present a comparison of innovative geo-resistivity methods to evaluate mole drains and the salinity affected clay soils. Geoelectrical surveys were conducted on three newly reclaimed farms to image the subsurface soil drainage conditions and to evaluate the efficiency of using the traditional MD systems in these heavy clay environments. The surveys included measuring the natural spontaneous potential (SP), apparent resistivity gradient (RG), and electrical resistivity tomography (ERT). Integrating the results of the three methods reduced the ambiguous interpretation of the inverted ERT models and allowed us to determine the subsurface soil structure. The inverted ERT models were suitable for locating the buried MDs and delineating the upper surface of the undisturbed clay beds. The proximity of these layers to the topsoil reduces the role played by MDs in draining the soil in the first farm and prevents the growth of deep-rooted plants in the second farm. Time-lapse ERT measurements on the third farm revealed a defect in its drainage network where the slope of the clay beds opposes the main direction of the MDs. That has completely obstructed the drainage system of the farm and caused waterlogging. The presented geo-resistivity methods show that integrated models can be used to improve the assessment of in situ sub-surface drainage in clay-rich soils. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Agricultural Practices to Improve Irrigation Sustainability)
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22 pages, 3683 KiB  
Article
Bayesian Calibration and Uncertainty Assessment of HYDRUS-1D Model Using GLUE Algorithm for Simulating Corn Root Zone Salinity under Linear Move Sprinkle Irrigation System
by Farzam Moghbel, Abolfazl Mosaedi, Jonathan Aguilar, Bijan Ghahraman, Hossein Ansari and Maria C. Gonçalves
Water 2022, 14(24), 4003; https://doi.org/10.3390/w14244003 - 08 Dec 2022
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 1312
Abstract
Soil salinization is one of the significant concerns regarding irrigation with saline waters as an alternative resource for limited freshwater resources in arid and semi-arid regions. Thus, the investigation of proper management methods to control soil salinity for irrigation with saline waters is [...] Read more.
Soil salinization is one of the significant concerns regarding irrigation with saline waters as an alternative resource for limited freshwater resources in arid and semi-arid regions. Thus, the investigation of proper management methods to control soil salinity for irrigation with saline waters is inevitable. The HYDRUS-1D model is a well-known numerical model that can facilitate the exploration of management scenarios to mitigate the consequences of irrigation with saline waters, especially soil salinization. However, before using the model as a decision support system, it is crucial to calibrate the model and analyze the model’s parameters and outputs’ uncertainty. Therefore, the generalized likelihood uncertainty estimation (GLUE) algorithm was implemented for the HYDRUS-1D model in the R environment to calibrate the model and assess the uncertainty aspects for simulating soil salinity of corn root zone under saline irrigation with linear move sprinkle irrigation system. The results of the study have detected a lower level of uncertainty in the α, n, and θs (saturated soil water content) parameters of water flow simulations, dispersivity (λ), and adsorption isotherm coefficient (Kd) parameters of solute transport simulations comparing to the other parameters. A higher level of uncertainty was found for the diffusion coefficient as its corresponding posterior distribution was not considerably changed from its prior distribution. The reason for this phenomenon could be the minor contribution of diffusion to the solute transport process in the soil compared with advection and hydrodynamic dispersion under saline water irrigation conditions. Predictive uncertainty results revealed a lower level of uncertainty in the model outputs for the initial growth stages of corn. The analysis of the predictive uncertainty band also declared that the uncertainty in the model parameters was the predominant source of uncertainty in the model outputs. In addition, the excellent performance of the calibrated model based on 50% quantiles of the posterior distributions of the model parameters was observed in terms of simulating soil water content (SWC) and electrical conductivity of soil water (ECsw) at the corn root zone. The ranges of NRMSE for SWC and ECsw simulations at different soil depths were 0.003 to 0.01 and 0.09 to 0.11, respectively. The results of this study have demonstrated the authenticity of the GLUE algorithm to seek uncertainty aspects and calibration of the HYDRUS-1D model to simulate the soil salinity at the corn root zone at field scale under a linear move irrigation system. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Agricultural Practices to Improve Irrigation Sustainability)
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13 pages, 701 KiB  
Article
Insights into the Spatial and Temporal Variability of Soil Attributes in Irrigated Farm Fields and Correlations with Management Practices: A Multivariate Statistical Approach
by Alexandra Tomaz, Inês Martins, Adriana Catarino, Clarisse Mourinha, José Dôres, Marta Fabião, Luís Boteta, João Coutinho, Manuel Patanita and Patrícia Palma
Water 2022, 14(20), 3216; https://doi.org/10.3390/w14203216 - 13 Oct 2022
Cited by 4 | Viewed by 1256
Abstract
The evaluation of the spatial and temporal variability of soil properties can be valuable to improve crop productivity and soil health. A study of soil properties was carried out in southern Portugal, in three farm fields with irrigated annual crops (layers 0–20 cm [...] Read more.
The evaluation of the spatial and temporal variability of soil properties can be valuable to improve crop productivity and soil health. A study of soil properties was carried out in southern Portugal, in three farm fields with irrigated annual crops (layers 0–20 cm and 20–40 cm), over three years. Factor Analysis (FA) and Discriminant Analysis (DA) were used to analyze the data. With FA, the observed variables were grouped into a smaller number of latent variables related to soil attributes. Discriminant Analysis was used to classify and identify the most dominant attributes and indicators for the time and space variability of soil parameters. The FA performed for the surface layer included factors related to texture, water and nutrient retention capacity, chemical composition, and soil fertility. In the sub-surface layer, the factor structure was similar, with four factors related to texture, chemical composition, nutrient availability, and soil fertility. The most influential factors and variables in temporal discrimination (sampling dates) in both layers were those related to chemical composition, with electric conductivity as the preponderant indicator. As for the spatial differentiation (fields), the dominant factor in the surface layer was texture, and in the sub-surface layer, nutrient availability. The most important discriminant indicators of spatial variability were fine sand proportion and available potassium, respectively, for the surface and sub-surface layers. The results obtained showed potential for the multidimensional and integrated assessment of patterns of temporal and spatial variation of soil functions from agricultural practices or soil degradation processes. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Agricultural Practices to Improve Irrigation Sustainability)
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Review

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20 pages, 1135 KiB  
Review
Sustainability of High-Density Olive Orchards: Hints for Irrigation Management and Agroecological Approaches
by Justino Sobreiro, Maria Isabel Patanita, Manuel Patanita and Alexandra Tomaz
Water 2023, 15(13), 2486; https://doi.org/10.3390/w15132486 - 06 Jul 2023
Cited by 3 | Viewed by 2829
Abstract
The production of olive oil in Portugal and other countries of the Mediterranean region has greatly increased in recent years. Intensification efforts have focused on the growth of the planted area, but also on the increase of the orchards density and the implementation [...] Read more.
The production of olive oil in Portugal and other countries of the Mediterranean region has greatly increased in recent years. Intensification efforts have focused on the growth of the planted area, but also on the increase of the orchards density and the implementation of irrigation systems. Concerns about possible negative impacts of modern olive orchard production have arisen in the last years, questioning the trade-offs between the production benefits and the environmental costs. Therefore, it is of great importance to review the research progress made regarding agronomic options that preserve ecosystem services in high-density irrigated olive orchards. In this literature review, a keywords-based search of academic databases was performed using, as primary keywords, irrigated olive orchards, high density/intensive/hedgerow olive orchards/groves, irrigation strategies, and soil management. Aside from 42 general databases, disseminated research, and concept-framing publications, 112 specific studies were retrieved. The olive orchards were classified as either traditional (TD) (50–200 trees ha−1), medium-density (MD) (201–400 trees ha−1), high-density (HD) (401–1500 trees ha−1), or super-high-density (SHD) orchards (1501–2500 trees ha−1). For olive crops, the ETc ranged from 0.65 to 0.70, and could fall as low as 0.45 in the summer without a significant decrease in oil productivity. Several studies have reported that intermediate irrigation levels linked with the adoption of deficit irrigation strategies, like regulated deficit irrigation (RDI) or partial rootzone drying (PRD), can be effective options. With irrigation, it is possible to implement agroecosystems with cover crops, non-tillage, and recycling of pruning residues. These practices reduce the soil erosion and nutrient leaching and improve the soil organic carbon by 2 to 3 t C ha−1 year−1. In this situation, in general, the biodiversity of plants and animals also increases. We expect that this work will provide a reference for research works and resource planning focused on the improvement of the productive and environmental performance of dense irrigated olive orchards, thereby contributing to the overall enhancement of the sustainability of these expanding agroecosystems. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Agricultural Practices to Improve Irrigation Sustainability)
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