Abstract: Hydro-Tech is a new automatized decision support system which integrates the results of scientific achievements and technological innovations in the fields of crop water requirements and irrigation scheduling, on-field data acquisition, transmission and management, and application of web and app tools for real-time irrigation management. The system combines agronomic, engineering, environmental and economic aspects of water management,aims to improve the eco-efficiency of agricultural water use and may be applied at both farm and irrigation district scale using the advanced technological solutions for the continuous sensor-based monitoring of the soil-plant-atmosphere continuum and the remote control of irrigation supply networks. Hydro- Tech is based on the standard FAO-56 approach for the estimation of reference evapotranspiration using the Penman-Monteith equation and determination of crop water requirements and irrigation inputs under different water management strategies. The system has a modular and flexible structure which permits the creation of the user specific scenarios based on the real on-farm conditions and constraints. As a such, the system allows the estimation of reference and crop evapotranspiration under limited data availability and employs the latest scientific achievements to recover the missing data and to develop the crop coefficient curves according to the specific crop variety biometric and phenological characteristics. The crop development is modelled by means of both calendar-day and heat-unit concepts. The real-time soil water balance is based on a simply cascading approach, runs on a daily basis and includes the high-resolution weather forecasting data which permits the pro-active irrigation management considering 3 to 7 forthcoming days. A dynamic multi-crop/farm optimizer supports the user- defined setting of constraints and irrigation priorities at the farm scale by taking into account the water availability at its quality, the soil water moisture level and eventual crop water stress, and the economic parameters including the cost of applied management practices and expected market price. Hydro-Tech provides standard interfaces connecting the on-field devices with the client software application through a Data Cloud Network (Hydrotech Data Cloud, HDC)which permits wireless, via new generation of smart devices (tablets, smartphones), and continuous monitoring of the on-field conditions and the remote control and management of irrigation. Hydro-Tech was developed within the framework of the EC-ERDF program and it is actually operated in the Apulia Region (Italy) at different farms for the irrigation management of peach and olive orchards, wine and table grapes, and vegetables. Several examples of application showing the enhancement of eco- efficiency of local agricultural systems are briefly described.
Keywords: irrigation management, decision support system, resources use efficiency, wireless communication, automated control