Rice irrigation by continuous flooding is highly water demanding in comparison with most methods applied in the irrigation of other crops, due to a significant deep percolation and surface drainage of paddies. The pollution of water resources and methane emissions are other environmental problems of rice agroecosystems, which require effective agronomic changes to safeguard its sustainable production. To contribute to this solution, an experimental study of alternate wetting and drying flooding (AWD) was carried out in the Center of Portugal in farmer's paddies, using the methodology of field irrigation evaluation. The AWD results showed that there is a relevant potential to save about 10% of irrigation water with a reduced yield impact, allowing an additional period of about 10 to 29 days of dry soil. The guidelines to promote the on-farm scale AWD automation were outlined, integrating multiple data sources, to get a safe control of soil water and crop productivity. The conclusions point out the advantages of a significant change in the irrigation procedures, the use of water level sensors to assess the right irrigation scheduling to manage the soil deficit and the mild crop stress during the dry periods, and the development of paddy irrigation supplies, to allow a safe and smart AWD.
Keywords: AWD; Lis Valley; Lower Mondego; MEDWATERICE; Oryza sativa L.; Portugal; rice irrigation; water saving.