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Final Report Summary - WEMED (Evaluation of the water use efficiency indicators in the Mediterranean region)

The ultimate aim of the WEMED project was to contribute to the integration of decision makers, researches, stakeholders, technicians and farmers in Mediterranean water management area in order to:
- define some Water use efficiency (WUE) indicators to be used in the agricultural practices in the Mediterranean region;
- organise a series of European project proposals for improving the evaluation of WUE at regional scale in the countries submitted to arid and semi-arid climates.

The main results of the project are summarised below:

1. Improving the type of distribution systems and the timing of irrigation adjusted to the needs of crops by using intelligent systems based on (controlled) water stress and demand prediction; tertiary treated municipal waste water needs were included.

2. Study sustainability and implementation of a water basin framework to regulate overall productivity in the Mediterranean for irrigated and rainfed agriculture. An integrated approach (ecology and economy of water / nutrients / salt) was adopted to develop indicators for WUE and the whole hydrological cycle applying models at different scales, considering the real costs and sustainability.

3. Improving the water use efficiency based on water consumption by the crop using modern irrigation methods which result in reduced water losses.

4. Introducing new modelling tools and information technologies (e.g. geographic information systems, crop growth models, water distribution models), developing drought resistant crops (e.g. fruit trees). Instating research and knowledge transfer in rural areas, improving capacity building for regional cooperation, and developing participatory systems.

5. It was accepted that the global change and the increasing human demands would make water more valuable and therefore what was needed was to:
- improve estimates for the actual demand, regional estimates and evaluation of crop coefficients to allow precise quantification in space and time;
- consider the whole system with all products with different types of irrigation (rainfed, deficit irrigation, supplemental irrigation, partial root drying) and the resources available;
- install a participatory system based on fees which would reflect the real value of water and the profit of the respective product.

6. Adopting a multidisciplinary approach for crop improvement, combining the expertise of breeders, biotechnologists and molecular biologists, physiologists and bioinformatics.

7. Genomics-assisted breeding, which implied moving from Quantitative trait loci (QTL) to genes.

8. Surface evaporation:
- the scope was to manipulate and reduce the surface evaporation component of evaporation through management interventions;
- more than twenty years after its introduction, it appeared to be no practical advance on the Ritchie equation. Serious attention should be given to experimental and theoretical methods of estimating surface evaporation from vegetation with incomplete and complete cover and different architecture.

9. Transpiration efficiency:
- the normalising, unifying influence of atmospheric demand provided a strong incentive for appropriate management practices that optimised crop growth against the seasonal variation in atmospheric demand and better theoretical and experimental methods of calculating and measuring the atmospheric demand throughout the growing season;
- correction for Evapotranspiration (ET) allowed the grouping of different species in a common efficiency. This provided management and experimental incentives to focus on increasing the abscissa i.e. transpirational fraction to maximise biomass and the characteristics of the biomass in terms of nutritional, commercial or communal value.

10. Developing correct and, above all, univocal definition of Water productivity (WP) and WUE and to studying the links between them. Possible definition to take into account could be: biomass / actual ET, yield / ET, incomes / used water by the crop (WU), value / ET, yield / irrigation (IWU), value / IWU.

11. Methods and models were necessary for the upscale of the WUE and the WP from field to farm, institutional scale, sub-national scale and country.

12. Research was necessary to individuate indexes, as a composite of more than one indicator, for a more complex evaluation of WP and WUE in the Mediterranean region.

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