Evaluation of the GreyWater Footprint Comparing the Indirect Effects of Different Agricultural Practices

Eros Borsato, Alejandro Galindo Egea, Paolo Tarolli, Luigi Sartori, Francesco Marinello

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

17 Citations (Scopus)
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Increasing global food demand and economic growth result in increasing competition over scarce freshwater resources, worsened by climate change and pollution. The agricultural sector has the largest share in the water footprint of humanity. While most studies focus on estimating water footprints (WFs) of crops through modeling, there are only few experimental field studies. The current work aims to understand the effect of supposedly better agricultural practices, particularly precision agriculture (variable rate application of fertilizers and pesticides) and conservation agriculture (minimum, strip, or no-tillage), on water deterioration and water pollution. We analyzed the results from an experimental field study in the northeast of Italy, in which four different crops are grown across three years of crops rotation. We compared minimum, strip, and no-tillage systems undergoing variable to uniform rate application. Grey WFs are assessed based on a field dataset using yield maps data, soil texture, and crop operations field. Leaching and associated grey WFs are assessed based on application rates and various environmental factors. Yields are measured in the field and recorded in a precision map. The results illustrate how precision agriculture combined with soil conservation tillage systems can reduce the grey water footprint by the 10%. We assessed the grey Water Footprint for all the field operation processes during the three-year crop rotation.
Original languageEnglish
Article number3992
Pages (from-to)3992
JournalSustainability (Switzerland)
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2018


  • Agriculture soil practices
  • Conservation tillage systems
  • Impact reduction
  • Precision agriculture
  • Sustainable management
  • Water footprint


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