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Irrigation provides life for agricultural crops. Yet, despite its indispensability, bad water management may very well sound the death knell for many farmers. Better water management, or sustainable irrigation, not only provides an equilibrium between economic, social and environmental dimensions, but also produces better crop yields and fruit quality.

While this sounds logical, its practical application is the matter of IRRIQUAL scientific research. The relationship between water practices and fruit safety, for example, is not immediately obvious, but there is a sound association between the two.

Understanding such principles is the purpose of IRRIQUAL and the contribution it makes provides new, more successful practices and methods for farmers to employ.


About 70% of water resources are dedicated to irrigation in Mediterranean countries, implying that any increase in efficiency of irrigation water use would save a significant amount of water. Saving water would be particularly beneficial to 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 mid-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, would enhance the sustainability of irrigated farming systems.

To address these issues, IRRIQUAL's approach is developing and validating an irrigation management model that allows it to realistically simulate the behaviour of the soil-tree system. This model can be applied to the design and management of more sustainable and efficient irrigation techniques. The project's research methodology is based on a combination of experiments, field surveys and modelling tools aimed at predicting the impact of a given irrigation practice on the relevant inputs (water, fertilisers) and outputs (yield, quality, safety). This methodology is applied to four Mediterranean fruit tree species (peach, olive, almond, citrus).

Prior to the establishment of such practices, a better knowledge of effects, such as physiological response, quality and safety, of different irrigation strategies on crops, is required. The resulting recommendations on irrigation design and practices are transferred to farmers, and best practices for each target crop and location is elaborated. Data and know-how is transferred to the irrigation industries through the development of new irrigation technology. The latter includes hardware and software components for automated irrigation equipment, and the optimisation of disinfection of irrigation water using ultrasound technology.


Improving irrigation technology ensures the competitiveness of European farmers in the market. Another spin-off of new irrigation management practices is a more flexible rendering of the farming system, which is better adapted to changes in the socioeconomic environment. The project establishes a Mediterranean network of representative fruit tree agrosystems, combined with research and development activities that are central to a rational implementation of sustainable irrigation practices and management.

Overall, the project builds a scientifically sound platform for further European research and development on sustainable irrigated farming. In this respect, IRRIQUAL should become an important milestone in the successful implementation of sustainable irrigation strategies.

List of Partners

  • Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas (Spain)
  • Universidad Politécnica de Cartagena (Spain)
  • Federación de Cooperativas Agrarias de Murcia (Spain)
  • Abacotech (Spain)
  • Contariego (Spain)
  • Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique (France)
  • University of Thessaly (Greece)
  • Universita degli Studi di Foggia (Italy)
  • Wageningen University (Netherlands)
  • Lebanese Agricultural Research Institute (Lebanon)
  • Litani River Authority (Lebanon)
  • Institute Agronomique et Veterinaire Hassan II (Morocco)
  • Sapiama (Morocco)
Full title:
Sustainable orchard irrigation for improving fruit quality and safety
Contract n°:
Project co-ordinator:
Juan Jose Alarcon, Consejo Superior De Investigaciones Cientificas,
EC Scientific Officer:
Massimo Burioni,
EU contribution:
€ 2.2M
Specific Targeted Research Project

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Last update: 06 December 2007 | Top