Water, the so-called blue gold. can we consume it responsibly?
WATER AND ECOLOGICAL AGRICULTURE
Water is a very important and critical resource that belongs to everyone. It is a public good, but unfortunately it is limited. For this reason, it is essential to consume it reasonably. We depend on the Water Framework Directive (WFD), which regulates the situation of rivers, aquifers, and wetlands at the European level, to have water in the future.
In Spain, 70% of the water consumed is used in irrigation for agricultural purposes, despite the modernization process of irrigation resulting in a 15% reduction in the consumption per hectare within the last decade.
Within the scope of Spanish agriculture, more than half goes to arable crops (more than 8,000 cubic hectometers); fruit trees (2,400 hm3); potatoes and vegetables (1,700 hm3); and olive grove and vineyard (1,200 hm3).
In the overview of European production, Spain is classified as the first supplier with 360,416 tonnes/year, and in sixth position among the top 10 producers in the world. The Huelva region in Spain (southwestern coast of Spain) has conquered the primacy of Spanish strawberries production. Giving the extended cultivation area, the optimization of water use and an accurate irrigation management for strawberry grow through agricultural strategies that find a compromise between production, quality and the environment is a primary target for the farmers of this region.
TYPES OF IRRIGATION
If we analyze the different types of irrigation, according to the energy required for the water collection and distribution, irrigation systems can be classified into:
Surface or gravity: Water is collected and distributed with the energy generated by the height differential between the catchment point and the irrigated area.
Motor energy: The water level is below the level of the irrigated area or at an insufficient height to be distributed with adequate pressure. In this case, the water is collected and distributed with energy produced by a pumping system, driven by a fuel or electric motor, ram, wind or manual pump.
Mixed system: Depending on the location of the water source and the irrigated area, it is possible to combine the two previous systems, in such a way to capture and raise the water using motor energy before distributing it by gravity or vice versa.
Subsurface or flood: Water is distributed superficially over the irrigated land, flooding it completely or in parts. This system can be subdivided into:
- Flooding the total area; when the entire irrigated area is flooded by water
- Partial flooding or by grooves; when the irrigated surface is made up of grooves and ridges through which the water is distributed.
Sprinkling: Water is distributed through sprinklers, which produce water droplets of different sizes, mimicking natural precipitation. Micro sprinkling: It is a modification of the traditional sprinkler system that allows water to be sprayed within a short distance from the plant and in a localized way.
Drip: Water is distributed locally, by drops, through drippers installed in drip hoses, small reservoirs (gallons, bamboo, etc.), or distribution pipes.
The latter, the drip irrigation system, is most commonly used for our crops.
It is a method that allows great optimization of water and fertilizers. The applied water infiltrates the soil directly, irrigating the area of influence.
Why do we use drip irrigation?
For its many advantages which include:
- It reduces the evaporation of water from the soil significantly.
- Allows the controlled supply of nutrients with irrigation water without leachate losses, with the possibility of modifying them at any time during cultivation.
- Due to the maintenance of high humidity, it allows for the use of more saline water for irrigation than surface and sprinkler irrigation systems.
- Reduces weed proliferation in unwatered areas.
Speaking about the kinds of irrigation sources used in Spain, here is what we find if we look at the total irrigated area:
- 68% is irrigated with surface waters (water in rafts, rainwater, or rivers). This is undoubtedly the most common source since its disposal doesn’t require the installation of complex hydraulic equipment.
- 27% feeds on groundwater. To use water from this source, it is necessary to include certain technology in the facilities of the crop field. It is an increasingly popular method of irrigation because of its maximum efficiency since it curbs water wastage.
- The remaining 6% is supplied with wastewater, purified and desalinated. Technology is not everything, small-scale irrigation and urban wastewater use, as well as changes in irrigation technology, can increase water productivity.
We extract some data on the occasion of World Water Day, in which the administrations plus environmental and agricultural organizations focus on the need to improve the management of available resources, for a more sustainable use that guarantees their availability in the future.
In Bionest, we take care of the situation and it is a duty and priority for us to develop hydrological plans with measures that ensure we have enough water in the future and that this is maintained in an optimal state.
With this premise, we always work in consideration of the different hydrographic confederations to ensure reasonable and responsible water use.
OUR R&D IN IRRIGATION REDUCTION
In Bionest, every drop of water counts. That is why our irrigation teams optimize the expense of this precious resource, always thinking of pampering the freshwater of the aquifers, rivers, and reservoirs of our area.
We make a large annual investment in studies and trials to reduce the contribution of water to crops as an alternative of great potential, to optimize water consumption in areas where water resources are limited.
To achieve optimum performance with our irrigation system, it is necessary to have a deep knowledge of the field, and the technical and operational difficulties in crops throughout the year.
Bionest strictly complies with organic production and market standards. These are under continuous review, and we obtain the renewal of the ecological certification annually. The main rules to consider are:
- Sustainable management of soil and water.
- Proper waste treatment.
- The control of flora and fauna during preservation.
One of our strongest bets to reduce water consumption is to use and recover river waters. Our R&D department studies and develops varieties of organic strawberries, organic raspberries, organic blackberries, and organic blueberries that require less water.
The result is extraordinary, we are optimizing varieties that grow healthier in drier environments
In an interview with Mercados magazine, our Commercial Director, Thomas Cera, highlighted the firm commitment of the company to the environment “Our goal is that these advances help us reduce costs and, therefore, maintain research investment”.
The great impetus that we put to add value in the reduction of water resources is essential to preserve soils and water. This is reflected in the results of our trials.
We want to share with you some of the results we are especially proud of:
In the long term, the vision of Bionest has always been and will be to take care of our livelihood, as well as the flora and fauna of this wonderful natural environment in which we find ourselves.
Water use and consumption has increased in recent years and will continue to increase in the agri-food sector. It is, therefore, a priority to find solutions for sustainable agriculture, proposing and investigating day-by-day, new models and irrigation techniques that increase the efficient use of water resources and add value to the future of this sector.
In Bionest, we put all our efforts to define and communicate our philosophy every day on a topic as delicate as the correct use of rainwater in organic farming, as well as each and every one of the regulations proposed for the care of the land and the wonderful environment in which we find ourselves.
TOWARDS A SUSTAINABLE FUTURE
We consider water conservation as very possible if we take care of the environment, in addition to being responsible and aware that the actions we carry out now will have consequences in the future.
Therefore, we want to propose ideas for performance improvement, sharing with you some of the good practices we carry out:
- Transparency and responsibility. As water is scarce, it is necessary for farmers to be able to account for annual water expenditure and make it available to the public in order to avoid waste and penalize those who unnecessarily exceed their consumption.
- Reduction of annual consumption by calculating the dose and frequency of irrigation and introducing new irrigation systems.
- Improvement of river basin management. Optimizing its use.
- Facility maintenance. Do not go for the most expensive installation, but for the best maintained. It is necessary to create the habit of taking care of the details of the irrigation installation, which will mean greater comfort at work and the satisfaction of knowing that a resource as scarce as water is not being wasted.
Now, the main question that farmers and professionals are asking in this sector is:
Will we be able to apply the relevant measures to maintain the yield of our crops by reducing water consumption? Can we all seek long-term creative viable solutions?
In Bionest, we are fully aware of the value of water in the context of organic farming and how necessary it is for everyone these days, but we are also optimistic, and we think that if we all do our individual and collective bests, we can preserve our precious blue gold.