• Reduce text

    Reduce text
  • Restore text size

    Restore text size
  • Increase the text

    Increase the text
  • Print

    Print
L'Unité Expérimentale de Gotheron développe des programmes d'expérimentation-recherche sur les systèmes de production durable en  ARBORICULTURE  fruitière (abricotiers, pêchers, pommiers, poiriers). © MAITRE Christophe

Water and agriculture

Protected fruit trees 

Like a stethoscope, the Pépista system is designed to avoid the over- or under-irrigation of fruit trees. It makes it possible to provide trees with the exact quantity of water they need for optimal development.

In France, 75% of orchards are irrigated. Farmers have traditionally used different methods to optimise irrigation, including tensiometers to measure soil moisture and data on plant evapotranspiration supplied by local weather stations. However, these methods are imprecise and can be interpreted in different ways. INRA has developed a system that measures exactly how much water each tree needs.

 

Water savings of up to 30% 

This system, patented in the 1980s by INRA Avignon and named Pépista, measures variations in branch diameter, which reflect tissue hydration. When there is a shortage of water, tissues contract. The system is currently marketed by the Agroressources company in Avignon, which rents it to producers for a season so they can “calibrate” their orchards. In other words, they determine the soil moisture conditions (measured by a tensiometer) that lead to hydric stress in trees (measured by Pépista). This allows farmers to irrigate only when needed. It is estimated that this will lead to water savings of between 25 and 30%. If droughts become more frequent, these targeted irrigation methods could become more widespread.

  Pépista measures branch diameter to the nearest hundredth of a millimetre. If the plant contracts more than normal day-night fluctuations, it lacks water and takes it from its own reserves. This includes fruit, which can stop growing.. © inra, Claude Bussi
Pépista measures branch diameter to the nearest hundredth of a millimetre. If the plant contracts more than normal day-night fluctuations, it lacks water and takes it from its own reserves. This includes fruit, which can stop growing. © inra, Claude Bussi