Optimizing irrigation in urban agriculture for tomato crops in rooftop greenhouses

Felipe Parada-Molina, Xavier Gabarrell Durany, Martí Rufí-Salís, Verónica Arcas-Pilz, Pere Muñoz, Gara Villalba*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review


The rise of population in urban areas makes it ever more important to promote urban agriculture (UA) that is efficient in terms of water and nutrients. How to meet the irrigation demand of UA is of particular concern in urban areas where water sources are often limited. With the aim of determining how to reduce water use for irrigation while maintaining productivity and reducing environmental impacts in UA, this study explores the agronomic performance and environmental life cycle impacts and benefits of three different fertigation management practices used in a rooftop greenhouse for tomato crop in Barcelona: 1) open management (OP); 2) recirculation (RC), in which 30% of the drained, unused water is used to irrigate the crop; and 3) the same recirculated management of RC with a further reduction in freshwater input of 15%(RR). Despite the recirculation and reduction of water and nutrients, all three irrigation management practices resulted in similar yields: 16.2, 17.9, and 16.8.kg.m(-2) for OP, RC, and RR, respectively. In terms of water-use efficiency, RR management was the most efficient, requiring 48.7.liters.kg(-1) of tomato, followed by RC (52.4.L.kg(-1)) and OP (75.2.L.kg(-1)). RR presented an improvement of 7% in water-use efficiency. In terms of environmental performance, RC had the best performance in almost all impact categories during the operational phase, especially in regard to marine and freshwater eutrophication, with 44% and 93% fewer impacts than OP due to the recirculation of nutrients and reduced nutrient loss through leachates. In terms of infrastructure, even though recirculation management requires additional equipment, the materials present better performance in the range from 0.2 to 14% depending on the impact category. This study can support evaluation of agricultural projects in the city, through yields and water consumption presented, incentivizing good practices aligned with the sustainability of UA. (C) 2021 The Authors. Published by Elsevier B.V.

Original languageEnglish
Article number148689
Number of pages12
JournalScience of the total environment
Publication statusPublished - 10 Nov 2021


  • Eutrophication reduction
  • Leachate recirculation
  • Life cycle assessment (LCA)
  • Recirculation system
  • Reduction water consumption
  • Water-use efficiency (WUE)
  • FOOD


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