Fruit tree orchards grown in semi-arid conditions in the south of Europe require an improvement in their water use efficiency and management. Among the most affected crops are: olives, almonds, peaches, vineyard, plums and oranges. In this project we will focus on olive orchards, but the approach used and most of the conclusions drawn will be applicable to the other crops mentioned above. Olive trees have traditionally been grown under dry farming conditions. However, during the last years the area of irrig ated olive orchards has increased considerably, motivated by the spectacular improvements in the yield when irrigated. The objective of the project is to improve our understanding of the water use of the cropping system consisting of olive orchards in the south of Spain. A comprehensive model (SVAT model, Soil Vegetation Atmosphere Transfer) that is able to predict the behaviour of this particular system will be developed. This kind of SVAT model is considered to be a key tool when trying to understand the functioning of ecosystems and to identify the main parameters and variables driving them. In addition, such a model can be employed as practical tools for assessment for farmers and natural resources managers. In this proposal special attention will be pai d to model the soil evaporation component in the context of a SVAT model. The development of high precision weighing lysimeters during the Marie Curie fellowship for the last two years in United Kingdom and the interest in a scientific cooperation between both Institutions will allow applying that technology in this project. The project will allow us to gain more insights into the modelling of evapotranspiration and its partitioning between transpiration and soil evaporation in sparse vegetation ecosystems in semi-arid regions.
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