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Sustainability of irrigated farming systems in a Tunisian region: A recursive stochastic programming analysis

  • Belhouchette, H.
  • Blanco, M.
  • Wéry, Jacques
  • Flichman, G.
Publication Date
Jan 01, 2012
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The aim of this study was to evaluate the sustainability of farm irrigation systems in the Cébalat district in northern Tunisia. It addressed the challenging topic of sustainable agriculture through a bio-economic approach linking a biophysical model to an economic optimisation model. A crop growth simulation model (CropSyst) was used to build a database to determine the relationships between agricultural practices, crop yields and environmental effects (salt accumulation in soil and leaching of nitrates) in a context of high climatic variability. The database was then fed into a recursive stochastic model set for a 10-year plan that allowed analysing the effects of cropping patterns on farm income, salt accumulation and nitrate leaching. We assumed that the long-term sustainability of soil productivity might be in con- flict with farm profitability in the short-term. Assuming a discount rate of 10% (for the base scenario), the model closely reproduced the current system and allowed to predict the degradation of soil quality due to long-term salt accumulation. The results showed that there was more accumulation of salt in the soil for the base scenario than for the alternative scenario (discount rate of 0%). This result was induced by apply- ing a higher quantity of water per hectare for the alternative as compared to a base scenario. The results also showed that nitrogen leaching is very low for the two discount rates and all climate scenarios. In conclusion, the results show that the difference in farm income between the alternative and base scenar- ios increases over time to attain 45% after 10 years.

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