Irrigation project in Brazil saves 30% in energy costs

Governor Roberto Requião of the Brasilian state of Paraná implemented a simple, innovative irrigation project for the agricultural sector ...

Governor Roberto Requião of the Brasilian state of Paraná implemented a simple, innovative irrigation project for the agricultural sector dubbed "irrigation at dawn" that he claims saves up to 30% in energy costs for farmers, and is the largest and most efficient irrigation project in Brazil.

Success of this project guarantees some 70% of crop harvesting in Paraná. Only 2.5% of Brazil's land area is located in the state, but it is the largest farm products producer in the country.

The governor says the state programme ensures 20 years of cheap energy for poor farmers by renegotiating contracts with power generators and distributors, who wouldn't be selling much energy at dawn. Some large farms benefit from the project, but without the programme, this energy would be consumed during the day at higher prices and higher number of megawatts (MW).

"Besides the watering of crops, the programme brought cheap energy for these people's houses, increasing the use of refrigeration to preserve foodstuff, thus avoiding food poisoning and increasing savings in medical care," said the governor. State government studies showed that more than 90% of people attended in public hospitals were treated for infections caused by food poisoning due to lack of proper preservation and to water pollution.

The high profit using this new strategy justifies the practice of irrigation for beans, the main crop planted in Paraná state, the governor explained.

"The economic benefits of different irrigation management strategies were assessed by long-term simulation (20 years) for dry beans in Paraná. The model BEANGRO was used to simulate crop yield and irrigation requirements assuming eight levels of irrigation threshold (20% to 90% of the remaining soil available water in steps of 10%), in addition to a level considering no irrigation. Net return was the objective function to select the optimum irrigation management strategy, assuming fixed and stochastic distributions of historical product price. The results showed that irrigation significantly increased yield despite a high variability for all the simulation strategies, due to variations on growth conditions over the years. Although the net return was highly variable, it was positive in 75% of the years for all strategies with threshold values higher than 30% benefits," he added.

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