During the decade of the 1990's, CLM was the region in Spain with greatest production of wine, garlic and some legumes; second in cereal production and third in industrial crops. Nevertheless, the shortage of water resources and the low gross margin of cereals are causing a change in the percentage of the area dedicated to each crop group. In addition to the increase in the area dedicated to tree crops, the extensive horticultural crops also receive greater importance. Among the crops, garlic and the onion utilize the greatest proportion of area; also important are the potato, the melon, the tomato, the pepper and lettuce.

2.1.4 Evolution of the Irrigated Crop Area

The size of irrigated land in CLM has been multiplied by four in terms of its original size from 1960 to present, increasing from 128,000 to 510,000 ha (JCCM, 2001; MAPA, 2006). This irrigated land progession has caused an increase of the water demands that have been covered mostly by groundwater resources. Initially, cultivations of high water requirements and with high gross margins were opted for. However, in the decade of the 1990's, problems of water resource overexploitation became obvious.

The beginning of directed actions to reduce the agricultural demand of water, along with changes that modified the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) of 1992, caused an increase in crop diversification.

The main reforms undertaken by public administration, i.e. the Hydrographic Confederations, and irrigators, to try to regulate water use in irrigated land agriculture were: the Water Exploitation Plans, and the creation of irrigators associations (Martin de Santa Olalla et al., 2005). These measures are discussed in more detail in the following sections.

In 1985, Spain entered the EU. Spanish agriculture was then regulated by the CAP. The Common Market Organizations (CMO) was the main tool used by the EU to fulfill agrarian policy. The objective of the CAP was to guarantee the minimum prices of crop productions to farmers, and to promote exports to other countries. In order to achieve this, an interventionist policy was established that protected the European market by regulating internal demand, by means of the purchase and storage of European agricultural products, and by limiting imports via tariffs. CLM was in the midst of the transformation of land for the purposes of irrigation. Consequently, farmers cultivated the products most subsidized by the EU, generally intense water consumers, like maize, alfalfa and sugar beet.

Due to the international pressures on the CAP, which accused it of noncompliance with free trade of agricultural products, the EU had to modify its agricultural policy. The CAP reform of 1992 led to a change in the crop distribution of irrigated land in the region. The main modifications from the previous CAP were:

• To reduce the amount of guaranteed prices.

• To offer farmers compensatory aids related to production, and independent of production.

• To establish a set-aside area for crops that received subsidies.

The last reform of the CAP-2003 had as objectives: a reduction in the CAP expenses, to guarantee the health and quality of agro-alimentary products, and to protect the environment, as well as, to improve the quality of life of livestock. In order to achieve this, the following modifications have been proposed:

• To completely separate economic aid from agricultural production. Farmers receive economic aids based on the amount received in the past, and not based on current production. In this manner, the farmer attempts to achieve optimal and not maximum production. This will be performed in an effort to increase the competitiveness of farmers and to adapt their crops to market demands.

• In order to receive aid, farmers would have to comply with standard regulations of acceptable agricultural practices for the protection of the environment and life conditions of livestock i.e. cattle.

The consequences of these modifications are summarized herein:

• Within the crops that receive subsidies from the CAP, there is a decrease in summer cultivation and an increase in those of winter (Figure 9).

Irrigated herbaceous crops area evolution

• Within the crops that receive subsidies from the CAP, there is a decrease in summer cultivation and an increase in those of winter (Figure 9).

Irrigated herbaceous crops area evolution

Figure 9: Area progression of: maize, alfalfa, sugar beet and barley in Castilla-La Mancha.

• In this set of the crops, there is a decrease in those that receive subsidies from the CAP and an increase in those that do not receive one. Within the latter crops, there is a significant increase in the area of tree crops (Figure 10).

Irrigated tree crops area evolution


Figure 10: Area progression of tree crops in Castilla-La Mancha.


Figure 10: Area progression of tree crops in Castilla-La Mancha.

• The last reform of the CAP, is causing an increase in the area of horticultural crops like onion, melon and garlic; varieties of vineyard are being replaced with those more suitable within market demand (i.e. Cabernet-Sauvignon, Syrah, Merlot, etc.); the cultivation of the sugar beet has ceased, however, this is also due to the last modifications made to the sugar CMO.

Diversification of crops has permitted a final reduction in water demand utilized for irrigation (Fig. 4). In general, irrigated winter crops consume approximately 2,500 m3 ha-1, whereas irrigated summer crops consume approximately 7,000 m3 ' ha-1 (Calera et al, 1999).

The current distribution of irrigated land crops (Table 5) and the progression in the proportion of different groups of crops in the HU 08.29 Mancha Oriental (Table 6) are illustrated.

The increase in the area of irrigation of tree and horticultural crops is due to the higher gross margins that are capable of generating these types of crops. It is necessary to indicate that the volume of water that can be applied to tree crops (vines and olive trees, among others) is limited. Only a support irrigation that helps to guarantee production is allowed. The seasonal volume of irrigation for these crops has been established at 1,000 m3 ha-1.

CLM is the main wine producing region in the world. For this reason, vineyard protection is of special importance to the region. Irrigated crops are 7 times more productive than rainfed land, and in the case of horticultural and tree crops, the proportion is even greater. This has led to the replacement of traditionally cultivated varieties of rainfed vineyards, into the more productive ones of irrigated land.

Another important aspect of tree crops is their environmental role. Tree crops protect ground soil from erosion and maintain an elevated index of vegetative cover throughout the year. This circumstance is important in a region such as CLM, where set-aside land in irrigated farms, due to its area occupied, is the third agricultural activity in importance.

Table 5: Distribution and water demand of irrigated crops in the HU 08.29 Mancha

Oriental in 2005 (ITAP, 2006)

Table 5: Distribution and water demand of irrigated crops in the HU 08.29 Mancha

Oriental in 2005 (ITAP, 2006)

Crops (2005)





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