Technology and innovation the key to ensuring the future of sustainable, competitive irrigation farming

On April 26, Spanish director general of Rural Development and Forestry Policy, Esperanza Orellana, inaugurated a technical seminar on “Water Efficiency in Irrigation Farming”. The event was organised by the Ministry of Agriculture within the framework of its Training Programme. The director general highlighted the key role of technology and innovation to ensure sustainable, competitive crop irrigation in the future. She added that competitiveness and sustainability represented two great challenges for an activity so dependent on a limited resource such as water.

Orellana emphasised the importance of irrigation farming as a strategic sector for society and the economy of the country, not just to guarantee food to a continually growing world population, but also to generate and maintain an associated agricultural industry of great significance, to create stable employment and maintain rural population levels.

EFFICIENT WATER USE

The director general insisted on the importance of improving water use efficiency through the upgrading of irrigation systems, which is currently being promoted by the Ministry through the National Irrigation Strategy. Orellana pointed out that this Strategy outlines the need to upgrade 800,000 ha of irrigation land, which, with investment of almost three billion euro, would enable water savings of around 1,100 hm3/annum.

The director general also referred to the EU Circular Economy Strategy 2030, which envisages the use of reclaimed water for irrigation farming. This represents a great opportunity to achieve enhanced water efficiency. She pointed out that Spain had 2,000 wastewater treatment plants treating almost 4,097 cubic hectometres of wastewater, which could be reused in agriculture, not just as a source of water but also as a source of energy and nutrients.

The director general concluded by pointing out that irrigation has been and will continue to be one of the pillars of rural development and food security. She added that irrigation was a fundamental element of our agro-food system and that it had to be defended by enhancing efficient use of resources.