Today we are in a situation with constantly increasing food demand caused by global population growth, combined with ever-decreasing availability of resources like usable land, fresh water, fertilisers and energy. Protected crop cultivation could be the ideal solution as it combines increased yield with high quality and environmental sustainability.
With these methods farmers can modify the parameters of food production to create the ideal habitat and microclimate for crop growing, overcoming problems of seasonality or operating in areas where cultivation is difficult.
Inside the greenhouse it is possible to adjust the temperature, duration and intensity of solar radiation, and the humidity of the air and the soil, which is increasingly replaced by various types of substrate.
In this context the irrigation system takes on a fundamental role, as it must supply water and nutrients to crops growing in an artificial environment with no natural resources.
The irrigation, or rather fertigation system, needs to be able to distribute water and nutrients in solution accurately and uniformly, to encourage optimum growth in the plants and obtain maximum yield. Irrigation systems for protected crops can be used both to deliver nutrients and to create the most favourable microclimate for a specific crop. In the former, drip irrigation is used, while the latter involves micro aspersion or misting.
The system must be fitted with devices which can produce, check and modify the pH and electrical conductivity (EC) of the nutrient solution in real time time. The system must be carefully planned and designed to give maximum uniformity in production, and in many cases it is also used to deliver plant health products, and as such maximum precision is required.
The water and nutrient solutions may be conveyed via a dripline system or with on-line type drippers such as the iDrop. The latter, combined with the Capillar System, is used in soil-free plantations, which are at the cutting edge of technology applied to crop growing.