Battista et al. - Development of methodologies and agrometeorological components to support water resources management in horticulture: operational results and potential applications

Piero Battista*, Bernardo Rapi, Maurizio Romani, Francesco Sabatini and Gaetano Zipoli
Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche, Istituto di Biometeorologia (CNR-IBIMET), Firenze

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Key words: agrometeorological models, control systems, irrigation, micrometeorological monitoring.

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Abstract

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Respect to the foreign competitors, the historical fragmentation of the Italian horticultural sector implies a higher difficulty for farmers and producers to support the additional costs of process or products innovation. Despite a widespread awareness of technological opportunity in term of business straightening, in recent years financial crunch and economic crisis have exacerbated this situation. In this context, Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) could significantly benefit from close relationships with Public Bodies and Research Organizations, surely able to provide suitable responses to the most urgent technical issues. Large R&D projects demonstrate the effectiveness of this approach that has led to the creation of innovative tools, services or solutions to face new environmental or economical challenges. In particular, the most advanced ICT technologies and the progress in the fields of control devices and environmental monitoring systems may allow a remote supervision of the production process. Moreover, internal routines implemented into more and more smart systems, could be able to reduce the number of decision makers interventions, filtering alert advices and determining real events severity. With a large vision of environmental monitoring and computer science potentialities in the horticultural field, a series of studies and experiments with the aim to find a method for an effective management of natural resource in horticulture are presented. These studies were carried out at the Institute of Biometeorology of the National Research Council in different research projects, studying solutions that aroused the interest of some industries of the Tuscanian technological network. This paper covers the main steps of a coherent scientific investigation, that have allowed the design of a support management system that combines the basic operational principles and the latest discoveries in the field of in-ground and potted plants irrigation. Starting from the integration of a system based on soil moisture sensors with a classical evapotranspiration model (CIMIS Penman), the article describe the steps followed to realize an autonomous management unit (project ECOIDROFLOR), able to control different functions in greenhouse (project SWIFF), and the opportunity offered by the availability of a Web based DSS for urban green area management (project GARANTES). Depending on the adopted solutions, project results show how reliable information was obtained limiting the number of sensors and hardware devices in the three operational contests, improving system’s analysis functions by means of agrometeorological modeling and data mining procedures. Particular emphasis is then given to the advantages provided by the application of these methods in low technological productive realities, discussing the potentiality of the proposed solutions in different operational contexts (real time interventions, activity scheduling and long-term programming), in particular for a rational management of the irrigation.

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