He is Professor of Agronomy in the School of Agricultural and Forestry Engineering, University of Córdoba, Spain, and Researcher at the Institute of Sustainable Agriculture, Scientific Research Council of Spain (IAS-CSIC).
He was trained as an agricultural engineer (University of Madrid, 1969; doctoral degree, 1977) and has an MSc degree (Irrigation, 1974) and a Ph. D. (Ecology, 1976) from the University of California, Davis. From 1976 to 1982 he was a Lecturer at the Department of Land, Air and Water Resources, University of California, Davis, and Irrigation and Surface Water Specialist in Cooperative Extension, working on statewide extension programs on agricultural water management and conservation. In 1982 he returned to Spain as Professor at the University of Cordoba, Spain. In 1991, he was appointed President of the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC), the largest research organization of Spain. In 1992, he was promoted to Secretary of State for Universities and Research of the Government of Spain where he worked until September of 1994. From 1996-2000, he was Director of the Institute of Sustainable Agriculture (CSIC, Cordoba, Spain). He has been President of the European Society of Agronomy (2000-2002) and is now President of the Royal Academy of Engineering of Spain, of which he is a founding member. He is also a member of the Academia Europaea. He was elected as member of the Scientific Advisory Committee of the JPI of the EU on Agriculture, Food Security and Climate Change (2010-2014). He is presently Chief Editor of Irrigation Science, the most prestigious international journal in the field of irrigation.
Since 1977, he has been a consultant or advisor for many international agencies such as FAO, UNESCO, World Bank, USAID, and the Office of Technology Assessment of the US Congress. He has worked in Kazakhstan, Korea, Morocco, Jamaica, Jordan, Mexico, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Argentina, Italy, Holland, Peru, Portugal, Syria, Tunisia, Turkey, USA, and Uzbekistan, among others. In 1998, he was appointed member of the Technical Advisory Committee (TAC-Science Council) of the Consultative Group of International Agricultural Research (CGIAR, Washington, DC), until 2003. Starting in 1998, he has participated in numerous evaluations for the CGIAR, including being chair of the EPMR of ICARDA in 2006/7. In 2007 he was named to serve in the TAC of the UNESCO team in charge of the World Water Assessment Reports.
His professional area of expertise relates to water sciences and engineering applied to agriculture and the environment. Current research interests are focused on the sustainability of water-limited agriculture and include topics such as water management at different scales, agriculture-environment interactions, yield gap assessments, soil and water conservation, irrigation water management, deficit irrigation strategies for horticultural crops, and efficient use of limited water supplies in drought situations. He has taught graduate and post-graduate courses on agronomy, water management, agricultural systems, irrigation and crop ecology and has directed 36 doctoral theses. He has published over 190 papers in refereed, international journals and book chapters, and over 200 publications on technical issues and reports. He has recently published a textbook entitled Principles of Agronomy for a Sustainable Agriculture (Springer), together with Prof. F.J. Villalobos.