Tuesday, August 21, 2007

The Rain in Spain...

...mainly not falling on the plain lately, has made it necessary for Spanish agriculture to enter the 21st century...from the 13th:

For decades, Alberto Martorell has been irrigating his orange and persimmon groves in this sweltering corner of eastern Spain by a method unchanged since the age of the Moorish invaders _ swamping them under a flood of water from the local canal.

But those days may be coming to an end. Martorell is one of a growing number of Spanish farmers who have signed up to go digital _ agreeing to switch to drip irrigation and connect their fields to a national grid monitored from Madrid.

The idea is to save money _ and equally important in an era of global warming _ precious water. Officials say the system could end up saving 20 percent of the water Spain uses for irrigation today _ a whopping 1.3 trillion gallons of water per year.

....''We're jumping from the 13th century to the 21st century,'' said Juan Valero, the secretary general of Spain's irrigation farmers' federation, called Fenacore.

....Martorell, a stocky, sun-beaten 50-year-old, admits that his main motivation for making the switch was money, not becoming part of any green revolution.

''The methods we have been using are obsolete,'' he said, standing amid a field of persimmon trees. ''New technology allows you to save time, improve harvests and most importantly, save water, which is the principal problem we have nowadays.''

His land's irrigation system is in the process of being modernized, and he hopes to have it completed within three years.

Under the project, Fenacore is encouraging farmers not just to move away from wasteful flood irrigation systems, but also to lay highly efficient telecommunications cables alongside main water conduits.

The telecommunications cables will be connected to computer centers regionally and nationally from where the irrigation grid can be monitored, with screens showing which land is getting water, how much, when and at what pressure.

''Instead of manually lifting sluice gates to flood fields, farmers will be able to do it from laptops or even mobile phones,'' said Valero. ''The aim is to manage water better. We have to rationalize its consumption, and to do this information is fundamental.''

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