The Government of the Spanish Region of Murcia seeks to promote the use of underground irrigation in citrus cultivation. This irrigation system is an alternative that not only has economic, agronomic and environmental advantages, but which also facilitates the implementation of good agricultural practices and compliance with Law 3/2020 on the Recovery and Protection of the Mar Menor.
To develop the criteria for the specific design, installation, operation and maintenance of these systems, and to demonstrate that water, energy and fertilizers are used more efficiently, the Region has set up a demonstration plot of one hectare. This plot, located at the Integrated Center for Training and Agrarian Experiences (CIFEA) in Torre Pacheco, has been planted with about twenty varieties of oranges, mandarins, lemons and grapefruits. The Council will carry out outreach activities with producers and technicians interested in visiting and evaluating said plot.
"This irrigation technique allows water and nutrients to be supplied to the soil directly underground, in a way that optimizes root growth and allows the surface to be free of irrigation components," said the Director General of Agriculture, Food Industry and Agrarian Cooperativism, José Gómez. "The advantages of localized underground irrigation include the lower use of fertilizers, application efficiency, reduced energy consumption, a lower presence of weeds, less exposure to solar radiation, better integration into the landscape and greater ease to carry out the cultivation tasks, as there are no hoses," he said.
However, "it also has some drawbacks, such as increased installation and maintenance costs, lack of technical knowledge, difficulties in maintaining and repairing equipment and above all, the obstruction of emitters due to the accumulation of sediments, the suction of the soil or root obstruction. For this reason, the Region wants to offer solutions that will allow producers to bet on this system."
It should be noted that underground irrigation has taken longer to develop than surface localized irrigation, and it is much less widespread, both due to lack of knowledge and the need to find solutions to the difficulties posed by its management. Above all, final users don't fully trust it.
This initiative has been co-funded by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD), the Spanish Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and the Council of Water, Agriculture, Livestock, Fisheries and the Environment of Murcia.