Unit I - Sustainability in agriculture and food systems (distance learning): It frames the concepts of sustainability applied to agriculture and food sectors. It provides elements for understanding the main agricultural challenges to design solutions and actions towards sustainable and resilient agri-food systems. The multi-dimensional nature of sustainability challenges will be analysed, getting students to reflect on processes for sustainability transitions in agri-food systems.
Unit II - Sustainable land and water management: This unit describes land and water resource status in Mediterranean environments and the main challenges for their use in agriculture. Soil genesis and characteristics are discussed, introducing key concepts for resources classification and survey, accomplished by technical field visits and practical examples. Linkages between rainfall patterns, soil properties, land degradation, desertification, drought and land use planning will be discussed. Moreover, the unit focuses on conceptual and quantitative understanding of surface and groundwater hydrological processes and explores the practices, approaches and tools, with regards to an integrated surface and groundwater management in agricultural environments.
Unit III - Sustainable on-farm irrigation management: This unit focuses on the soil-plant-atmosphere interaction at the farm scale and aims to enhance students’ capacities to apply sustainable water management practices and tools under different pedo-climatic conditions and contexts considering agronomic, engineering and environmental issues. Students will enhance their knowledge on soil physics, agro-meteorology, soil plant-atmosphere continuum, crop water requirements and Irrigation scheduling, resources use efficiency, crop growth modelling, and on-farm water management strategies and technologies.
Unit IV - Irrigation planning, design, and management: This unit explores an integrated approach that fosters optimal water allocation and resilient design of irrigation systems in a performance-oriented perspective. For an outlook in efficient resource management in agriculture, students will learn about advances and innovations in farm irrigation including renewable energy and IoT-based systems, and multi-objective planning, design and management of open channel and of pressurized large-scale irrigation systems.
Unit V - Use of smart tools in agriculture: This unit provides students with basic knowledge on the use of smart tools for driving decisions towards a more sustainable irrigation management in agriculture. Remote sensing, geographic information and global position systems are deployed as tools for the acquisition, management, processing, analysis and display of spatial data and information. Moreover, base maps and data for the irrigation project design (Unit IX) will be organized and refined.
Unit VI - Use of Alternative Water Resources in agriculture: This unit offers a holistic approach towards Alternative Water Resources (AWR) management and practices in agriculture as a sustainable, innovative, and cost-effective way for improving community access to water in scarce areas, thereby contributing to climate adaptation. Major focuses will be on the use of low-quality waters, salinity control and its impact on soils and crops, drainage systems design and management, and desalination processes.
Unit VII - Water Economics: The unit introduces the basic concepts of economic principles of farm management for an optimal use of irrigation water and the planning of irrigation projects taking into account the main institutional problems of the Mediterranean irrigation sector. Cost recovery and irrigation water pricing issues will be important focuses. Students will acquire the basic concepts of economic and financial feasibility evaluation and learn how to undertake a Cost/Benefit Analysis of irrigation projects.
Unit VIII - Water Policy and Governance: Drivers, challenges and main outcomes and shortcomings of water policies in the Mediterranean agricultural context will be illustrated and analysed. Participatory approaches for Irrigation Management (PIM) and Transfer (IMT) will be important focuses. Students will be introduced to the most used approaches and metrics to evaluate the social and environmental impacts of the main programs and measures.
Unit IX - Irrigation project – An integrated approach: Students will be engaged since the beginning of the course in an extensive team-work to design a large-scale irrigation system, integrating concepts, techniques and approaches, developed throughout the different teaching units. Team-working provides great learning opportunities and promotes workplace synergy. The process will include a comprehensive analysis of climate, soil, and crop data and the hydraulic design of a large-scale distribution network based on optimal cropping pattern determined using different simulation scenarios and economic criteria.
Students who have successfully completed the first year are admitted to the second-year programme to conduct an applied research, under academic supervision. Research will address the challenges related to water and land management in agroecosystems and with a problem-solving approach, investigate and apply the latest scientific, technological, and/or socio-economic solutions.
Main research lines include: Application of remote sensing technologies and other modern tools to improve land, water and nutrient use in agriculture; Soil water balance and crop-growth modelling under different climatic and management scenarios; Resource use optimization and eco-efficiency in land and water management; Water-energy nexus (renewable and non) for efficient management of large scale pressurized irrigation systems; Technical and socio-economic impacts of modernization processes; Treatment and reuse of alternative water resources and impact on the environment and irrigation systems; Agro-hydrological modelling and modern techniques for field validation/calibration; Agro-ecological characterization, soil degradation and conservation, sustainable soil/land management; Agroeconomic and hydro-economic modelling to optimise land and water management strategies and policies; Characterization, modelling and participatory simulations of water use and development strategies; Policies and economic tools for an effective implementation of water demand management in agriculture