Agricultural systems are characterized by the interdependence and complexity of their components and by the variability and risk involved in their management. Agriculture is an activity with high risk levels and income that fluctuates yearly due fundamentally to variations in climatic conditions, diseases, and changes in product prices and markets. The use of chemical products as fertilizers and in disease control forms the base of modern agriculture, represents an important part of production costs, and is the principal cause of environmental criticism.
In Europe, new community agricultural policies, based on GATT agreements, seek to optimize primary production means and systems, oriented toward less-intensive agriculture that is compatible with the environment and sustainable use of natural resources and is economically viable with a sufficient employment level. In this dynamic context, irrigated agriculture is forced to change its production system, from one that does not consider water as a limited resource to one that does consider water as a production factor and an important economic parameter whose poor use can generate environmental problems.
Optimization models for farm-level water management have become important. Dynamic, linear, and nonlinear programming have been tools commonly used for farm irrigation planning and management with different crop or orchard types. Optimization models have been developed to plan water resource use at farm and multifarm levels (see Agriculture Systems).
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