Coping with water scarcity using supplemental irrigation of wheat (Triticum aestivum
L.) in the semi-arid northeast Syria is a great challenge for sustainable water use in agriculture. Graded borders and set sprinkler systems were compared using multi-criteria analysis. Alternative solutions for surface irrigation and for sprinkler systems were developed with the SADREG and the PROASPER design models, respectively. For each alternative, two deficit irrigation strategies were considered, which were characterized using indicators relative to irrigation water use, yields and water productivity, including farm economic returns. Alternatives were ranked considering two contrasting priorities: economic returns and water saving. A first step in ranking led to a selection of graded borders with and without precise land levelling and of solid set and semi-permanent sprinkler systems. Precise-levelled borders were better for water saving, while non-precise ones ranked higher for economic returns. Semi-permanent set systems have been shown to be better in economic terms and similar to solid set systems when water saving is prioritized. Semi-permanent sprinkler systems rank first when comparing all type of systems together regardless of the considered deficit irrigation strategy. Likely, border irrigation is appropriate when wheat is in rotation with cotton if the latter is surface irrigated. When peace becomes effective, appropriate economic incentives and training for farmers are required to implement innovative approaches.
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