Agriculture: saving and recycling water for irrigation

Water is an essential resource in agriculture, and with the likely increase in restrictions to the amount of water allocated for farming, irrigation is the key to meeting crop needs. Given the scarcity of the resource and the increasing influence of intensive farming, irrigation has lost its positive image, even though it is responsible for around 40% of the global supply on less than 20% of the farmland. We are already experiencing the initial effects of climate change, with increasingly frequent and severe droughts in several parts of the world.

What type of irrigation can meet tomorrow's challenges?

By 2050, we will be using increasing amounts of water to feed ourselves. Enjoy this entertaining 2.5-minute video providing an overview of Irstea's research on irrigation (water governance and precision irrigation).



Subsurface drip irrigation, an innovative solution

Subsurface drip irrigation systems are used to bring water directly to the plant root, providing water savings of up to 30% compared to a traditional sprinkler system without any corresponding decrease in yields.


Irrigation reusing treated wastewater

Treated wastewater emitter © Irstea / B. Molle

Irstea has developed a new irrigation emitter, patented jointly with Phytorem.

Water resource management software

Irrigation cannon © Irstea / JM Le Bars

Can future crop yields be estimated in relation to climate and irrigation conditions? This is the aim of the PILOTE software, developed by Irstea Montpellier.

Agrivoltaics - managing water and producing sustainable energy.

At a time when France is experiencing a net decrease in agricultural land area (51% of French land in 2012 (source: MEDDE 2014) compared to 70% as late as 1950), Irstea is looking at optimizing irrigation and growing plants under solar panels.

The agrivoltaic system set up at Irstea Montpellier in partnership with Inra and Sun'R combines ground-level crops with solar panels fixed at a height of 4.5m above ground using an open supporting wooden structure for mechanized farming. Not only has this system provided answers to current energy challenges, it has also allowed Irstea to focus specifically on plot shading for over 2 years.

Shading can change plants' water requirements and increase the productivity of crops growing under the panels, even in conditions of water stress. There is a 20% to 30% saving in water used to irrigate the plants as the solar panels keep them shaded for part of the day.


Reusing treated wastewater for irrigation: a solution for the future

A complete system for reusing treated wastewater tested on a real-life scale

A research project led by a consortium of 5 companies and 3 research laboratories including Irstea has resulted in tests for a complete system for reusing treated wastewater.


Ecofilae, a start-up mining the wastewater market

Ecofilae offers local communities and manufacturers evaluations and diagnoses based on the latest scientific discoveries on the reuse of treated wastewater, particularly by Irstea, and progress in French regulations.



An innovation platform for precision irrigation


A closer look at the PReSTI platform, dedicated to innovating irrigation materials and practices.