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Real-time irrigation: Cost-effectiveness and benefits for water use and productivity of strawberries

  • Author(s): Gendron, Laurence
  • Létourneau, Guillaume
  • Anderson, Lelia
  • Sauvageau, Guillaume
  • Depardieu, Claire
  • Paddock, Emily
  • van den Hout, Allison
  • Levallois, Raymond
  • Daugovish, Oleg
  • Sandoval Solis, Samuel
  • Caron, Jean
  • et al.

© 2018 Elsevier B.V. Although California is experiencing permanent water deficits compensated by irrigation, the state accounts for more than 90% of total strawberry production in the United States. There is a critical need to optimize yield and crop water productivity (CWP), as influenced by irrigation management. Although studies have reported that irrigation management based on soil matric potential (ѱ) has the potential to increase yield and CWP compared to conventional practices, the cost of this technology may be a limiting factor for some growers. In this study, we assessed the cost-effectiveness of wireless tensiometer technology (WTT) for field-grown strawberries in California in comparison with the conventional irrigation management. As a second step, we evaluated the cost-effectiveness of deficit irrigation. Using data from eight sites, we calculated multiple linear regressions (MLR) to describe the relationship between: (1) fresh market yield and average soil matric potential reached before irrigation initiation (ѱirr) and (2) water use and ѱirr. Based on MLR results, we evaluated the technical performance of each irrigation management method and conducted an economic analysis. Our results showed that adopting a precise irrigation scheduling tool such as WTT is cost-effective and leads to water savings relative to conventional irrigation. Our results also revealed that any water savings associated with a deficit irrigation strategy are costly for strawberry growers.

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