Improving Irrigation Efficiency in Italy


Article Highlights:

  • As costs rise and Italy continues to experience variations in climate, irrigation management and efficiency becomes more important for Italian farmers.
  • Monsanto in Italy brought AquaTEK℠ --formerly “Efficienza Irrigua”—to farmers in 2013 to collaborate on a systems approach to water management.
  • The project is part of a public-private partnership.

In Italy in 2009, the Monsanto team looked for ways to improve irrigation management of its corn hybrids. Supported by soil moisture probes, the Monsanto Team aimed at informing farmers on need, timing and water volume of irrigation. At the same time, Italian corn farmers looked for ways to improve their irrigation efficiency.

After three years of studying water use on the farm, Monsanto brought AquaTEK℠ --formerly “Efficienza Irrigua,” an irrigation efficiency program addressing water scarcity through a systems approach to water management, to Italian farmers in 2013.

Water Challenges in Italy

In Italy, 65 to 70 percent of all fresh water consumption is dedicated to agriculture. Italy has one of the largest irrigated agricultural areas in Europe with approximately 4 million hectares (10 million acres). Also, Italy experiences variable weather patterns—heavy annual rain mixed with hot and dry summers. Italian agriculture will require a smart irrigation management to meet its food production needs. Therefore, it is necessary to implement strategies and techniques to use water wisely.

The most common irrigation systems used in Italian agriculture are: sprinkler, furrow, micro irrigation and flood. Efficient management of existing irrigation systems with innovative irrigation techniques is a first step toward reducing water usage.

Cost is another reason for farmers to reduce water usage in irrigation. In northern Italy, where nearly 80 percent of the country’s corn is produced, the average cost for each irrigated field is 200-400 Euro/hectare, equal to 15 to 25 percent of the total cost to produce the crop.

Public-Private Collaboration on Water Use

The AquaTEK℠ program is a private-public collaboration that brings together key components of farm management: water management, improved seed genetics, irrigation system options and training and education.

DEKALB® improved seed genetics add value to AquaTEK™ system, allowing farmers to produce more grain with less resource usage.

The AquaTEK℠ Experience

On a group of selected farms, the AquaTEK℠ project compares three types of water management—no irrigation, drip irrigation and sprinkler irrigation—. Monsanto Italian team is assessing their effects on the best DEKALB® genetics for Italian farmers. Monitoring several variables during the season, makes it possible to compare the three systems in terms of productivity and resource use.

During 2013 and 2014, sixteen field trial locations have been planted in the “Padana inferiore” and “Padana centrale-inferiore” regions. Every year, three of them are being monitored by the Università degli Studi di Milano Department of Agricultural and Enviromental Sciences, which measures the benefits of this system and will validate the results with three years of scientific protocols (learn the first results in the video below). Netafim, a global leader in smart drip and micro-irrigation solutions, provides equipment and guidance on the irrigation practices and uses.



Italian farmers face water challenges like all farmers around the world. Monsanto has taken a leading position to help farmers manage water and cultivation resources better. As more data is collected, Monsanto will share the findings of its irrigation management project developed with academics and farmers, to enhance yield opportunity and water and resource use on Italian farms.