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Environmental and Economic Sustainability Assessment for Two Different Sprinkler and A Drip Irrigation Systems: A Case Study on Maize Cropping

Borsato, Eros, Martello, Marco, Marinello, Francesco, Bortolini, Lucia
Agriculture (Basel) 2019 v.9 no.9
biomass production, carbon footprint, case studies, climate change, corn, economic factors, economic sustainability, energy, energy costs, environmental performance, farmers, farms, financial economics, harvest index, infrastructure, irrigation water, microirrigation, water conservation, water footprint, water shortages, water use efficiency
Water scarcity is worsened by climate change. Water savings can be reached by improving irrigation efficiency both on farm and on water supply. To do that, the choice of the best irrigation technology is not always straightforward, because farmers need to renew and implement farm infrastructures for irrigation. This study compares three irrigation systems, one drip irrigation and two sprinkler (center pivot and hose-reel) systems, on environmental, economic, and energetic performance under irrigated and non-irrigated maize cropping. The study combines impact and efficiency indicators, addressing a sustainability analysis for the irrigation practice under the three different irrigation systems. The sustainability for the irrigation systems was assessed using water-related indicators (water use efficiency, irrigation water use efficiency, and water footprint), biomass (crop growth rate, relative growth rate, harvest index, and yield response factor), and energy indicators (energy footprint, performance, and energy cost footprint) for the environmental aspect; and the economic-based indicators (water productivity and economic water footprint) for the economic aspect. Main results address the center pivot system as the best solution for irrigation practice since it demonstrated higher economic and environmental performance. Moreover, maize under the pivot system allowed a higher biomass production, economic benefits, and water use efficiency.