Innovating for preservation of natural resources in irrigated agriculture

The “Irrigation, Agronomy and Environment” research group focuses its activity on scientific aspects of the interaction between crop agronomy, water, soil and the environment from the perspective of one of the most arid regions in Europe: the central Ebro valley. The agricultural sector in this environment is facing a growing problem derived from: a) competition for the use of water in a horizon of climate change with less availability of resources b) the need to satisfy the demand for food and other agricultural products, and c) the water quality and atmosphere requirements related to different European directives (Nitrate Directives, Water Framework, National pollutant emission thresholds, Habitats, or RAMSAR convention) to reconcile agricultural use and the environment.

The central objective of the group is to generate scientific and technical information to establish more competitive, efficient and sustainable agricultural systems. For this, it is necessary: 1) to develop innovative technologies for the diagnosis, management and optimization of the agricultural environment, 2) to increase the efficiency in the use of production inputs, 3) to increase the stability of production and the diversification of crops, and 4) conserve natural and agrarian resources, as well as the environment in general.

These objectives are integrated into three priority lines of activity with the following specific objectives:

  1. Sustainable use of water and soil resources: Optimize the design and management of irrigation by diagnosing and improving irrigation on plots and in water distribution systems, supporting collective irrigation management; preserving and increasing the efficiency of water use in rainfed agricultural systems and improving knowledge on soil behavior.
  2. Environmental impact of agricultural activity: Diagnose and improve the quality of water, soil and atmosphere in relation to agricultural use, minimizing diffuse pollution (salts, agrochemicals and greenhouse gases and ammonia) due to agriculture. Analyze the effect of agrarian intensification on the conservation of soils and habitats of interest.
  3. Crop agronomy: Improve and innovate farming techniques with specific guidelines to optimize production inputs, increase farm profitability and reduce environmental impact

The research lines of the RAMA group are in agrement with the smart specialization strategy of Aragón (RIS3), in the strategic line Development of new products, processes and technologies in the agricultural sector ; included in the Rural Development Program of Aragon 2021-2027, where the group actively participates.

The research lines of the group are also framed within the priority lines set by the State Plan for Scientific and Technical Research and Innovation, as well as those of the Horizon Europe Program of the EU, within Challenge 2 “Productive and sustainable agricultural activity, sustainability of natural resources” and Challenge 5 “Climate action, environment, resource efficiency and raw materials” and the Sustainable Development Goals (Agenda 2030) of the United Nations.