A key agricultural challenge, irrigation is the subject of focused research. At Irstea, the PReSTI platform  is dedicated to innovating irrigation materials and practices. Its strong point is combining laboratory methods (controlled conditions) with in-field experiments (real conditions).
"One of the platform's areas of work is the development of practices adapted to a specific material, able to cope with any type of weather conditions or water quality, explains Bruno Molle, researcher at Irstea's Montpellier center. For example, we looked at the mechanics of dispersion in water jets in the laboratory, and then under the influence of wind in-field."
The team carries out tests and research into water transfers in irrigated ground. 2 devices have been patented:
- a sensor (TGE) for measuring soil moisture tension
- a water distributor (DA-EU) to prevent distributors from clogging due to particles in wastewater or to the development of biofilms.
The work carried out so far goes into great detail, down to each drop ! "We can measure and model the size and speed of drops, even how they are dispersed in the air and how wind affects them, specifies the scientist. The aim of this work is obviously to save water using technology : what type of irrigation, what distributor, what pressure."
The facilities are not only used for research; they also make it possible to carry out tests on materials developed by manufacturers under real conditions, in order to evaluate their compliance with current standards. Some tests lead to R&D or research activities.
In order to preserve fresh water reserves, authorities are now asking scientists how to reuse treated wastewater for irrigation. Where does the water go? What does it contain? What adapted equipment must be developed? Irrigation for today and tomorrow: challenges and solutions!
A bit of history...
Since the end of 2014, the PReSTI platform in Montpellier has brought together the Laboratory for Testing and Research on Irrigation Equipment (Lermi, located in Aix-en-Provence since 1969) and the G-EAU joint research unit's testing station, set up in 1989 on the Lavalette site north of Montpellier. The latter facility makes it possible to use materials under real conditions.
These new facilities are housed under the same roof as the ReducPol platform for the application of phytosanitary products.
For more information
- Focus on. Reducpol, research platform to evaluate the application and spraying of phytosanitary products
- Consult the page of the Water resource management, actors and uses (G-EAU) joint research unit.
- The Irstea Montpellier center
 Science and technology of irrigation research and testing platform (PReSTI).