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Monday, 29 September 2014 00:00

A research on Irrigation and fertilizer stands out at the International Horticultural Conference held in Australia

The event brings together, every four years, thousands of researchers from around the world who review the latest developments in horticulture-related sciences.

Professor Rodney Thompson, from the Department of Agronomy at UAL, presented a plenary session as a guest lecturer at the latest International Horticultural Conference, on the optimization of irrigation and nitrogen fertilizers in vegetable production. The conference, entitled "Optimizing Nitrogen and Water Inputs for Greenhouse Vegetable Production," had a prominent role in this international scientific meeting, held recently in the Australian city of Brisbane.

The presentation was the result of a collaborative effort between the Departments of Agriculture, at University of Almeria, and Glasshouse Horticulture at University of Wageningen, in the Netherlands. Much of the presentation was on the work carried out by the UAL research group AGR-224 belonging to ceiA3, in collaboration with the Experimental Station of Fundación Cajamar, the University of Cordoba, and Washington State University, in the U.S..

This work is developing several tools to plan the correct doses of irrigation and nitrogen fertilizer, as well as other tools to monitor soil and crops to ensure they are getting the exact irrigation and fertilizer needed. The use of these tools will substantially reduce the pollution of aquifers by nitrates and other environmental problems that are commonly associated with vegetable farms for excessive application of irrigation and of nitrogen fertilizers.

In China, where there are one million acres of plastic greenhouse compared to the 28,000 acres of Almeria, there are major environmental problems associated with excessive irrigation and nitrogen fertilizer. During this conference, several Chinese researchers expressed their interest in collaborating actively with researchers from the University of Almeria on irrigation and nitrogen management. Recently, there has been great international interest in the work developed by the UAL research group AGR-224 on nitrogen fertilizer and irrigation management.

In several international conferences, members of the group have given several talks as guest lecturers on the improvement of nitrogen fertilizer management in vegetable production, and at European level, they have participated in working groups to identify the best environmental practices in agriculture.

There is a legal obligation from the EU to reduce the pollution of aquifers that are significantly contaminated by nitrates from fertilizers and manure used in agriculture, as it occurs in Almeria. In order to reduce this pollution it will be necessary to change the agricultural practices. Until recently, there was little pressure from the EU to enforce this legislation. However, in countries such as the Netherlands and Belgium, considerable political pressure is currently being applied, urging the agricultural sector to apply it. It is highly likely that this strong European pressure will reach Almeria in the near future.

The highlighted role of the UAL in various international fora shows that there is an international recognition of the role that these university researchers are performing to effectively prepare the management tools that will be needed when strict enforcement of legislation on reducing nitrate pollution reaches the fields of Almeria.

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