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DESIRAS project launched

Feb 3rd, 2011 |

Brussels, January 2011. A consortium led by the EWP has recently been awarded the DESIRAS project – Addressing Desertification by Efficient Irrigation in Agriculture. DESIRAS will be supported by the European Commission, DG Environment, to address the ever more urgent challenge of desertification in the Southern regions of Europe.

Within the framework of the European Water Stewardship Program, DESIRAS will pilot test an innovative technology that firstly minimizes the frequency of irrigation, by identifying the time and amount of irrigation which is best for the crop. Secondly, it minimizes the frequency of using herbicide and pesticide by showing when insects and diseases are most likely to strike. It thereby reduces water-use (by up to 45%) and water-pollution. Furthermore, this pilot test will check more holistic approaches to evaluate the introduction of new technologies in agricultural systems on a river basin scale.

These technologies will be pilot-tested on two farms on Cyprus and one in Spain. DESIRAS has started on the 1st of January and will run for 15 months.

DESIRAS – Addressing Desertification by Efficient Irrigation in Agriculture

Desertification is becoming an ever more important challenge in the Southern regions of Europe. Large parts of Europe are already affected and the effects will only become more severe and more widespread in the coming years if Europe doesn’t act urgently. One of the most important factors causing this desertification is the lack of available water caused by both water scarcity and droughts. Recent research by the European Commission identified a large potential for water saving by implementing innovative technologies. As agriculture is by far the largest user of fresh water, more efficient use in this sector will have the largest potential effect on the total available water supply.

Against this background the DESIRAS project has been set up. The DESIRAS project tests such an innovative technology, the Dacom Agri Yield Management System (AYMS), for its practical effect in addressing desertification in Southern Europe. The AYMS uses soil moisture sensors to measure the demand for water of a certain crop. Analyzing this data in combination with data on the soil and detailed weather forecasts provides the optimum time and amount for irrigation. Compared to the usual situation in which the farmer decides when to irrigate based on his experience, using the AYMS can reduce water use for irrigation by up to 45%.

Another large use of water on farms is used for spraying pesticides. The AYMS determines, based on weather forecasts and software models, when conditions are favorable for diseases or insects and thereby pinpoints the optimum time for using pesticide, reducing the frequency of spraying by around 35% (in earlier testing) and thereby limiting water use and polluted waste water.

are favorable for diseases or insects and thereby pinpoints the optimum time for using pesticide, reducing the frequency of spraying by around 35% (in earlier testing) and thereby limiting water use and polluted waste water.

With agriculture using 80% of the available water (of which 87% is used for irrigation) in Spain and 63% (of which 93% for irrigation) in Cyprus, the potential benefits of wide implementation of these technologies are enormous.

The effects of implementing new technologies to promote sustainable water management shouldn’t be evaluated in isolation on the implementation-site, to avoid unforeseen adverse effects on neighboring locations. Therefore, this project combines the testing of the AYMS with the pilot testing of the Water Stewardship standard, a holistic tool to define, assess and award sustainable water management, giving an objective method of implementing and evaluating sustainable water management, taking into account the regional (river basin) context.

This project takes place in two regions severely hit by desertification: Spain and Cyprus. Testing the performance of the technologies with crops widespread in Southern Europe, under specific regional circumstances, will ensure maximum potential uptake in the regions hardest hit by desertification. Furthermore, local pilots are crucial for uptake as farmers and regional authorities want to see performance under local circumstances before further implementing the technology.

The European Water Partnership coordinates the overall project and leads the Water Stewardship and the communication workpackages. The other partners are:

-        Dacom ltd, the Netherlands

-        Atlantis Consulting ltd., Cyprus

-        Cyprus Organic Farmers Association

-        Plataforma Robles, Spain (olive-farm)

-        Oikozoe Viokalliergies ltd., Cyprus (farm producing amongst others potatoes)

-        Arissandra Cosmetics ltd., Cyprus (farm producing amongst others verbena)





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