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"SLECI" - Technology

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Self-regulating, Low Energy, Clay based Irrigation

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The SLECI technology is a self-regulating subsurface micro irrigation system. The word "micro" reverse the using of micropores to transport water in the surrounding soil via clay emitters. The osmosis pressure is active, that means that the clay emitters release the water as a function of the soil moisture. As soon as the soil begins to dry out, a high suction pressure is created on the clay body. The clay body releases the water and at the same time sucks water from the water source via a hose system.

 

Some advantages:

No additional energy is necessary. This system is a self-regulated system. A large water saving effect and the targeted watering of the plant in the root zone give the system an interesting alternative to conventional irrigation technology. Its concept, production and installation are simple and thus adaptable to rural environments thus increasing crop production while saving on water and energy.

 

Demo sites:

The SLECI technology is being implemented in three pilot locations around Gozo; the Government Experimental Farm in Xewkija, as well as two fields in Għarb and Xagħra (Citrus, Citrus, Vine Grapes). Other test fields are located in Morocco (Citrus, Dates, Olives, Vine grapes) and in Portugal (Cherries, Peaches).

 

New development & project activities:

A modified type of clay body is currently being developed with the aim to reduce sensitivity to external factors. In addition, possible pressure losses are to be avoided and mechanical stability increased. Recently some prototypes were produced.

During 2023, the implementation of SLECI was underway in three pilot sites across Gozo: the Government Experimental Farm in Xewkija, along with two fields in Għarb and Xagħra. In Għarb it was tested on vines, while in Xagħra and Xewkija SLECI was trialed on citrus trees. Concurrently, conventional drip irrigation was implemented on trees and vines of comparable size at all locations to ensure comparability of results.


Encouraging results are emerging from the initial trials at two of the sites, Għarb and Xagħra. Data collection from the third site is still ongoing. When comparing the crop yields of the SLECI and conventional drip irrigation method at these two sites, it was found that yields were similar.  However, the amount of water used  for irrigation with the SLECI technology was approximately half the amount of water used in conventional drip irrigation.


Fruit yield was not the only parameter which was being measured.  A number of other parameters like leaf dimensions, number of later shoots, thickness of main stem, fruit count, fruit dimensions and average temperature were being measured.  These records have been sent to UBI for analysis to see if there are any trends.  Moreover, other testing is being carried out on the water quality (conductivity, pH and mineral content), soil characteristics (texture, water holding capacity, bulk density and pF curve) and crop characteristics (brix, titratable acidity, pH and mineral content).


During 2024, due to the limited time available for analysis until end of project, parameters are only being measured on young vines at the site in Gharb.  
 

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