Jul 7, 2022
Screens shield plants, conserve water during growing

Saving water is one of the biggest challenges of modern agriculture.

According to the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization, in 2050 it will be necessary to produce up to 60% more food to feed the global population. The Arrigoni Group, a company that designs and manufactures textiles for agriculture, has field-tested Prisma®, a range of protective screens that optimize the diffusion of light while ensuring temperature control. The result was surprising: the amount of water that can be saved compared to production in the open field reaches almost 40%.

Irrigation plays a fundamental role in food production, and it is for this reason that Arrigoni intends to contribute with its research so that agriculture becomes more productive and less harmful. It is estimated that the planet contains 1,400 million km of water. However, only 0.003% of this huge amount, i.e. about 45,000 km3, that can be used for drinking, hygiene, agriculture and industry. And not all this water is accessible, as part of it flows into remote rivers during seasonal floods.

In the last century, water consumption has grown almost twice as much as the rate of population growth. On average, agriculture accounts for 70% of global freshwater use. FAO predicts that irrigated food production will increase by more than 50% by 2050, but the amount of water reserved for agriculture can only increase by 10% (if irrigation practices are improved, and yields increase).

In this context, Arrigoni comes into play. In intensive agriculture, it is necessary to adopt water-saving techniques. Textile screens can prove to be simple and effective agricultural tools to increase the efficiency of water use, depending on their structure, color, and level of shading. They transmit sunlight in a specific band of wavelengths, increase the efficiency of radiation use, affect the morphology and physiology of plants, and can also be a factor in improving flowering and growth, as well as fruit quality.

Arrigoni has proven in the field the effectiveness of this thesis. The tests were conducted between summer 2021 and spring 2022 at the Arrigoni research station in Southern Italy. Specifically, the performance of the Prisma® range compared to the open field was tested. With no crops below the screens, total water savings were 26%. For tomatoes in the intermediate phase of their production cycle – compared to the open field – water savings of 39% have been recorded. This is just the beginning.

“Since last April, we have been carrying out an extensive campaign of measurements in the field according to well-defined protocols, which will provide more precise and comparable data with respect to the percentage of water savings,” said CEO Paola Arrigoni. “The goal is to have data available for each crop, to be shared with our partners and institutions. In other words, we want to estimate the approximate percentage of water that can be saved in evapotranspiration for each of our screens, in different climatic conditions.”

—Arrigoni Group

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