Saving water for the future: the model of Sa Marigosa in Riola Sardo

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"We have always been at the forefront of water savings. Necessity forced us. We work on sandy, extremely permeable soils. We started using dripping hoses long ago. All sorts of infrastructure is missing here. We still work with the wells, because the irrigation water from the reclamation consortium does not reach us. For 18 years we had to work with generators, sheltering them at night so that they wouldn't be stolen, and repositioning them in the morning", says Salvatore Pala, title holder of the Sa Marigosa farm, stretched out to reach the ponds of Trottas, Pischixeddu, Domu su cuaddu and Istai, in the territory of Riola Sardo.

In 1986, when the company took its first steps, the office where today Pala seats among papers and files did not exist. Only a few greenhouses, the pumping system and a warehouse, managed with difficulty and courage by three young boys. Today Sa Marigosa gives work to 40 people, partly employed in a parallel producer organization. Cultivation, logistics, marketing, and for some time now also the transformation of some products, sold in a small shop in the internal frame of the vast building, where men and forklifts constantly move. In total about 800 hectares for cauliflower, wheat, watermelon and melons, tomatoes, aubergines, peppers and cucumbers distributed throughout the regional territory. In winter the production is concentrated above all on the thorny artichoke, which for 80% will be sold in the peninsula.

The small weather station is located between the rows of young olive trees, at the edge of field number 7, which faces the main building. A column for detecting air temperature, relative humidity, radiation, wind speed and direction, rain gauge, daily rain counter and dew point. "Before we proceeded empirically", explains Monica Secci, an agronomist at Sa Marigosa, while we cross the field heading towards the second element of the avant-garde drip irrigation system, produced by Netafim and installed with the support of Maristanis and Confagricoltura Oristano, local expression of the nation-wide confederation that takes care of the farmers’ interests.

Two probes go down to 20 and 40 centimeters. A third one is moved laterally and sinks 20 centimeters into the ground. The second column transmits data on soil moisture to computers, tablets and cell phones, signaling the need to activate the irrigation system, indicating the appropriate amount of water, distilled from the dripping wings placed along the rows. Rigid, resistant plastic hoses, which do not need frequent replacement. The calculation of the necessary quantity of water is processed according to the atmospheric data recorded by the weather station, which is also capable of forecasts. "It is very important to save water, to use it with precision, and at the most appropriate time", says Secci.

"The system can lead to a saving of 25-30%" explains Alberto Puggioni, chief agronomist of Netafim Italy, who adds: "Request for these systems are growing in all fields of agriculture, in the arboreal one as in the arable land and in the vegetable sector. The drip system is even beginning to be used in the demanding cultivation of rice. Everyone knows that the availability of water resources will decrease in the coming decades, and they are looking for a solution".

Explains Vania Statzu, vice president of the MEDSEA foundation and head of the strategy with which the Maristanis project wants to support sustainable agricultural practices in the territories hosting wetlands: “The dry seasons will be more and more frequent in the future, and water resources increasingly scarce. Technological innovation allows us to prepare ourselves for a careful management of production processes. Preserving the water of the wells means to avoid altering the water-bearing stratum, so that it is not replaced by salt water. The increase in salt levels would end up altering the balance of wetlands, which are fundamental for mitigating the effects of climate change".