Wspólnotowy Serwis Informacyjny Badan i Rozwoju - CORDIS

Final Report Summary - WATERWEB (Water resource strategies and drought alleviation in Western Balkan agriculture)

The ultimate aim of the WATERWEB project was to introduce strategic water management for drought alleviation and sustainable agricultural practices in the region of Western Balkans (WB), as well as to establish and reinforce research expertise in a range of technologies for water and crop management.

The main results of the project are summarised below:

The investment, installation and data collection from the hydrological equipment and the creation of Geographical information system (GIS) databases for the Land water economy information system (LWEIS) was an important tool to introduce appropriate irrigation systems in the WB region. Although there was no permanent nitrogen (N) contamination of irrigation water, the periodic increases of N in Serbia originating from sewage leakage were alarming. Furthermore, contamination of vegetables was detected, induced by washing with channel water containing E. coli and Salmonella. Different decontamination procedures of the crops included disinfection by ultraviolet or organic solutions; however, prevention of contamination was preferred. In FYROM all water samples were seriously contaminated with E. coli, and therefore they could not be used for any purpose. Modern methods for detection of pathogens and other contaminants in water, and technologies for reducing contamination impact, would be of significant importance in the WB region, where legislation and implementation of European Union (EU) standards targeting water for irrigation is low. New methods and further focus on the subject of water would help improving the existing quality criteria for irrigation water in Serbia and FYROM. The outcomes of the project regarding establishment of modern methods for detection of pathogens and other contaminants in water, as well as the technologies for reducing the contamination impact, are expected to be of special interest for the local consumers and growers. Since the legislation and implementation of current EU standards targeting water for irrigation in Serbia is low, this would also help improving the existing quality criteria for irrigation water in WB.

The predictions were that the demand for irrigation would increase considerably in the following years to alleviate the consequences of climate change and the more frequent and severe droughts. Water is expected to become the main limiting factor in agricultural production. Therefore, the emphasis should be placed on crop physiology and crop management under dry conditions in order to make plants more efficient water users. The increased number of drought events which was predicted for the WB countries would increase their dependence on irrigation and especially on techniques for more efficient water use, such as Deficit irrigation (DI). The implementation of DI, for instance Alternate partial root zone drying (ARD or PRD), in various crops (tomato, potato, grapevine, maize) may decrease the demand for agricultural use of water by increasing water use efficiency, improve end product quality, as well as reduce the risk of leaching of nutrients. The methods were developed on what is known about plant responses to drought stress and the mechanism of root-to-shoot drought stress signalling. Potato and tomato have high water requirements, therefore supplemental irrigation is necessary for successful production.

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