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Laurence Gendron, Guillaume Létourneau, Julien Cormier, Claire Depardieu, Carole Boily, Raymond Levallois and Jean Caron

Quebec, Canada, is the third largest strawberry (Fragaria ×ananassa) producer in North America, behind Florida and California. In view of increasing global water scarcity and the high water requirements of strawberry production, there is a critical need for growers to optimize irrigation practices to improve crop water productivity (CWP). In Quebec, pulsed irrigation has been shown to increase yields in strawberry crops while using the same volume of water as standard (nonpulsed) irrigation, thus improving CWP. However, more frequent and shorter-duration water applications (pulsed irrigation) might be more complex to manage manually; therefore, it could be of interest to automate the irrigation process at the farm scale. The first objective of our study was to assess the economic impact of pulsed irrigation compared with the standard irrigation procedure (nonpulsed irrigation) in a strawberry crop grown in a highly permeable clay loam soil in Quebec. The second aim was to determine whether pulsed irrigation would generate enough benefits to offset the cost of an automated irrigation system. We used data from three sites to determine the effect of pulsed irrigation on marketable yields and gross revenues compared with nonpulsed irrigation. We conducted a cost–benefit analysis to assess the cost-effectiveness of an automated irrigation system based on net gains associated with pulsed irrigation. Our results showed that pulsed irrigation was appropriate in strawberry crops grown in a highly permeable soil because it led to significant gross revenue increases relative to the standard irrigation procedure. Our results also revealed that pulsed irrigation generated enough additional benefits to cover the cost of an automated irrigation system, with a short payback period of about 1 year.