Export file:


  • RIS(for EndNote,Reference Manager,ProCite)
  • BibTex
  • Text


  • Citation Only
  • Citation and Abstract

Towards sustainable use of water in rainfed and irrigated cropping systems: review of some technical and policy issues

1 CREA-AA, Via Ulpiani 5, 70125 Bari, Italy
2 CREA-PB, Via Po 14, 00198 Rome, Italy

Special Editions: Sustainable Crop Production Intensification

Water sustainability in agriculture is the main topic of this review. However, moving from studies carried out at worldwide level, the main focus of the paper is the Mediterranean farm which practices irrigated and/or rainfed cropping systems. On the basis of the state of the art on this matter, a lack of knowledge in some areas has come to light that calls for new policies and further research. Basically, the review provides feasible agro-technical solutions for using water in the most efficient and productive way. Alternative ways to use water resources rationally in growing crops are discussed. They are based mainly on progress due to agronomy (No-Till Conservation Agriculture), information technology (Decision Support System and Precision Irrigation) and genetics. Agronomic options are analysed taking into account recent European agricultural and environmental trends of policies which conjugate the issues related to sustainability and production intensification. In perspective, the review encourages discussion on how to relocate farming systems within natural cycles, specifically those of the water cycle, based on No-Till Conservation Agriculture principles and practices which apply to all land-based agro-ecologies in all continents where agriculture is practiced.
  Article Metrics


1. Pretty J (2008) Agricultural sustainability: concepts, principles and evidence. Phil Trans R Soc B 363: 447-465.    

2. Tittonell P (2014) Ecological intensification - sustainable by nature. Curr Opin Environ Sustain 8: 53-61.    

3. Hoekstra AY (2013) The Water Footprint of Modern Consumer Society. Routledge, London. 216.

4. Mekonnen MM, Hoekstra AY (2011) The green, blue and grey water footprint of crops and derived crop products. Hydrol Earth Syst Sci 15: 1577-1600.    

5. de Fraiture C, Molden D, Wichelns D (2010) Investing in water for food, ecosystems, and livelihoods: An overview of the comprehensive assessment of water management in agriculture. Agric Water Manag 97: 495-501.

6. Zhao L, Wu L, Li Y, et al. (2010) Comparisons of Yield, Water Use Efficiency, and Soil Microbial Biomass as Affected by the System of Rice Intensification. Commun Soil Sci Plant Anal 41: 1-12.

7. Ruiz-Martinez I, Marraccini E, Debolini M, et al. (2015) Indicators of Agricultural Intensity and Intensification: A Review of the Literature. Ital J Agron 10: 74-84.

8. European Commission, COM (2012) 673 final. Communication from the Commission to the European Parlament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions. A Blueprint to Safeguard Europe's Water Resources, 14 November 2012, Bruxelles.

9. FAO (1997) Food Production: the critical role of water. Technical background document 7. World Food Summit, 13-17 November 1996, FAO, Rome.

10. Chukalla D, Krol MS, Hoekstra A (2015) Green and blue water footprint reduction in irrigated agriculture: Effect of irrigation techniques, irrigation strategies and mulching. Hydrol Earth Syst Sci 19: 4877-4891.    

11. Ventrella D, Charfeddine M, Moriondo M, et al. (2012) Agronomic Adaptation Strategies under Climate Change for Winter Durum Wheat and Tomato in Southern Italy: Irrigation and Nitrogen Fertilization. Reg Environ Chang 12: 407-419.

12. Pisante M, Corsi S, Kassam A, et al. (2010) The challenge of agricultural sustainability for Asia and Europe. Transnatl Soc Rev 17: 662-667.

13. Huang Q, Rozelle S, Lohmar B, et al. (2006) Irrigation, agricultural performance and poverty reduction in China. Food Policy 31: 30-52.    

14. Turral H, Svendsen M, Faures JM (2010) Investing in irrigation: Reviewing the past and looking to the future. Agric Water Manag 97: 551-560.

15. Foley JA, Defries R, Asner GP, et al. (2005) Global consequences of land use. Science 309: 570-574.    

16. The European Parliament and the Council of the European Union (2013) Regulation (EU) No 1305/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 17 December 2013 on Support for rural development by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD) and repealing Council Regulation (EC) No 1698/2005. Off J Eur Union 347: 487-548.

17. Speelman EN, García-Barrios LE, Groot JCJ, et al. (2014) Gaming for smallholder participation in the design of more sustainable agricultural landscapes. Agric Syst 126: 62-75.    

18. Ward T, Cork S, Dobbs K, et al. (2015) Framing an independent, integrated and evidence-based evaluation of the state of Australia's biophysical and human environments. J Environ Plan Manag 4: 738-755.

19. World Bank Institute, SRI Achieving More with Less—a new way of rice cultivation. http://siteresources.worldbank.org/WBIWATER/Resources/SRIbrochure.pdf

20. Pisante M, Stagnari F, Acutis M et al. (2015) Conservation Agriculture and Climate Change In: M Farooq, KHM Siddique (eds). Conservation Agriculture. Springer. 579-620.

21. Castellini M, Ventrella D (2012) Impact of conventional and minimum tillage on soil hydraulic conductivity in typical cropping system in Southern Italy. Soil Till Res 124: 47-56.    

22. Jat RA, Sahrawat KL, Kassam AH (2013) Conservation Agriculture: Global Prospects and Challenges. CABI Wallingford UK and Boston USA. 381.

23. Ciampalini R, Follain S, Le Bissonnais Y (2012) LandSoil: A model for analysing the impact of erosion on agricultural landscape evolution. Geomorphology 175: 25-37.

24. Levavasseur F, Bailly JS, Lagacherie P, et al. (2012) Simulating the effects of spatial configurations of agricultural ditch drainage networks on surface runoff from agricultural catchments. Hydrol Process 26: 3393-3404.    

25. Ball P (2000) H2O: A Biography of Water. New Ed, Paperback, Phoenix. 400.

26. Chenoweth J (2008) Minimum water requirement for social and economic development. Desalination 229: 245-256.    

27. Abu-Zeid MA (1998) Water and sustainable development: the vision for world water, life and the environment. Water Policy 1: 9-19.    

28. Mariolakos I (2007) Water resources management in the framework of sustainable development. Desalination 213: 147-151.    

29. Unite Nations, Press Release. World Population Will Increase by 2.5 Billion by 2050; People Over 60 To Increase by More Than 1 Billion. 2007. Available from: http://www.un.org/News/Press/docs//2007/pop952.doc.htm

30. OECD, Environmental Outlook to 2030. 2008. Available from: http://www.oecd.org/environment/ indicators-modelling-outlooks/40200582.pdf

31. 2030 Water Resources Group, Charting Our Water Future Economic frameworks to inform decision-making. 2009. Available from: http://www.2030wrg.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/ Charting_Our_Water_ Future_Final.pdf

32. IPCC (2007) Summary for Policymakers. In: Solomon S, D Qin, M Manning, et al. (Eds.). Climate Change 2007: The Physical Science Basis. Contribution of Working Group I to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, United Kingdom and New York, NY, USA.

33. Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (2005) Ecosystems and Human Well-being: Health Synthesis. WHO, Geneva, CH. 64.

34. AQUASTAT. FAO-database. 2005. Available form: http://www.fao.org/nr/water/aquastat/data/query/index.html?lang=en

35. Bruinsma J (2003) World agriculture: towards 2015/2030, A FAO perspective. Earthscan Publications, London.

36. FAO. Review of agricultural water use per country. 2003. Available from: http://www.fao.org/docrep/005/Y4473E/Y4473E00.HTM

37. UNCSD. United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development (UNCSD): Comprehensive assessment of the freshwater resources of the world. 1997. Available from: http://www.un.org/esa/sustdev/sdissues/water/waterdocuments.htm

38. Katerji N, Mastrorilli M (2014) Water Use Efficiency of Cultivated Crops. John Wiley & Sons Ltd, Chichester.

39. Lonigro A, Catalano M, Rubino P (2007) Agricultural use of treated municipal wastewaters preserving environmental sustainability. Ital J Agron 2: 217-260.

40. European Commission, COM (2015) 614 final. Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions. Closing the loop - An EU action plan for the Circular Economy 2 December 2015, Bruxelles

41. De Groot RBA, Hermans LM (2009) Broadening the picture: negotiating payment schemes for water-related environmental services in the Netherlands. Ecol Econ 68: 2760-2767.    

42. Bartolini F, Bazzani GM, Gallerani V, et al. (2007) The impact of water and agriculture policy scenarios on irrigated farming systems in Italy: An analysis based on farm level multi-attribute linear programming models. Agric Syst 93: 90-114.

43. Mannocchi F, Todisco F (2006) Optimal reservoir operations for irrigation using a three spatial scales approach. J Irrig Drain Eng 132: 130-142.

44. Hamdy A, Trisorio-Liuzzi G (2002) Desertification: causes and strategies to compete. Options Méditerranéennes A 50: 399-412.

45. Palumbo AD, Vitale D, Campi P, et al. (2012) Time trend in reference evapotranspiration: analysis of a long series of agrometeorological measurements in Southern Italy. Irrig Drain Syst 25: 395-411.

46. Seckler D, Molden DJ, Sakhtivadivel R (2003) The concept of efficiency in water resources management and policy. In: Kijne JW, Barker R, Molden DJ (Eds.) Water productivity in agriculture: limits and opportunities for improvement CABI with IWMI, Wallingford.

47. Olesen JE, Trnka M, Kersebaum KC, et al. (2011) Review- Impacts and adaptation of European crop production systems to climate change. Eur J Agron 34: 96-112.    

48. Scherr SJ, Shames S, Friedman R (2012) From climate-smart agriculture to climate-smart landscapes. Agric Food Secur 1: 12.    

49. Rinaldi M, He Z (2014) Decision Support Systems to Manage Irrigation in Agriculture. In: Sparks DL (Ed). Advances in Agronomy 123: 229-279.

50. Bouman BAM, van Keulen H, van Laar HH, et al. (1996) The ‘School of de Wit’ crop growth simulation models: A pedigree and historical overview. Agric Syst 52: 171-198.    

51. van Ittersum MK, Leffelaar PA, van Keulen H, et al. (2003) On approaches and applications of the Wageningen crop models. Eur J Agron 18: 201-234.    

52. Monteith JL (1977) Climate and the Efficiency of Crop Production in Britain. Phil Trans R Soc Lond 281: 277-294.    

53. Sinclair TR, Muchow RC (1999) Radiation use efficiency. In: Sparks DL (Ed). Advances in Agronomy 65: 215-265.

54. de Wit CT (1958) Transpiration and crop yields Institute of Biological Chemistry Research on Field Crops and Herbage. Wageningen, TheNetherlands.

55. Doorenbos J, Kassam AH (1979) Yield Response to Water. FAO Irrigation and Drainage Paper No 33. FAO, Rome. 193.

56. Katerji N, Campi P, Mastrorilli M (2013) Productivity, evapotranspiration, and water use efficiency of corn and tomato crops simulated by AquaCrop under contrasting water stress conditions in the Mediterranean region. Agric Water Manag 130: 14-26.

57. Campi P, Modugno F, Navarro A, et al. (2015) Evapotranspiration Simulated by CRITERIA and AquaCrop Models in Stony Soils. Ital J Agron 10: 67-73.    

58. Misra R, Raine SR, Pezzaniti D, et al. (2005) A Scoping Study on Measuring and Monitoring Tools and Technology for Precision Irrigation. CRC for Irrigation Futures, Irrigation Matter Series 01/05.

59. King BA, Stark JC, Wall RW (2006) Comparison of site-specific and conventional uniform irrigation management for potatoes. Appl Eng Agric 5: 677-688.

60. Raine SR, Meyer WS, Rassam DW, et al. (2007) Soil-water and solute movement under precision irrigation: knowledge gaps for managing sustainable root zones. Irrig Sci 26: 91-100.    

61. Smith RJ, Gillies MH, Shanahan M, et al. (2009) Evaluating the performance of bay irrigation in the GMID. Irrigation Australia, 2009 Irrigation & Drainage Conference. Swan Hill, Vic, 18-21 October.

62. Shah NG, Ipsita D (2012) Precision Irrigation: Sensor Network Based Irrigation and Problems. In: Manish K (Ed.) Perspectives and Challenges of Agricultural Water Management. InTech, 468.

63. Geerts S, Raes D (2009) Deficit irrigation as an on-farm strategy to maximize crop water productivity in dry areas. Agric Water Manag 96, 1275-1284.

64. Blum A (2009) Effective use of water (EUW) and not water-use efficiency (WUE) is the target of crop yield improvement under drought stress. Field Crops Res 112: 119-123.    

65. Baldock J, Wheeler I, McKenzie N, et al. (2012) Soils and climate change: potential impacts on carbon stocks and greenhouse gas emissions, and future research for Australian agriculture. Crop Pasture Sci 63: 269-283.    

Copyright Info: © 2016, Marcello Mastrorilli, et al., licensee AIMS Press. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Licese (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0)

Download full text in PDF

Export Citation

Article outline

Show full outline
Copyright © AIMS Press All Rights Reserved