Less water is more with drip-irrigation technology
by Jaco Cilliers
South Africa is classified as an arid country with an annual average rainfall of 464 mm compared with the global average of 860 mm annually. There are some areas with significantly higher rainfall, especially when one compares tropical coastal regions with the semi-desert and desert regions of the Northern Cape. Whatever, the fact remains that, in most instances, the farmers of South Africa face challenges of a very dry climate.
Irrigation companies know this and make most of the situation. However, even with an available water source on a farm, it does not guarantee an endless supply of water. Farmers still need to irrigate as effectively as possible and minimise water usage. An answer to this problem is drip irrigation technology.
What is drip irrigation?
Drip irrigation is the most efficient water and nutrient delivery system for growing crops. It delivers water and nutrients directly to the plant’s root-zone, in the right amount and at the right time, ensuring that each plant gets exactly what it needs when it has to grow and produce optimally. Thanks to drip irrigation, farmers can produce higher yields while saving on water, as well as on fertilisers, energy usage and even on crop protection products.
How drip irrigation works
Water and nutrients are delivered all over the field in specialised piping known as dripper lines fitted with smaller units known as drippers. Each dripper emits drops containing water and fertiliser, resulting in the uniform application of water and nutrients directly to the root zone of every plant.
Why farmers prefer drip irrigation
The reason is obvious: Drip Irrigation not only delivers greater ROI (return on investment) compared with other irrigation methods; it also gives the farmer an efficient and straight-forward system to irrigate their crops and results in:
- Higher consistent yield and quality;
- Huge water savings – no evaporation, no run-off, no waste;
- 100% land utilisation: Drip lines irrigate uniformly irrespective of the topography and soil type;
- Energy saving: Drip irrigation works on low water pressure;
- Efficient use of nutrition and crop protection products with no leaching; and
- Less dependency on weather giving greater stability and lowering risk.
Just like people, plants like to get their water and nutrients in a balanced way. Nobody wants to eat a month’s stock of food in one day, and the same goes for plants. That is why drip irrigation applies water and nutrients frequently and in small doses, ensuring optimal growing conditions that help produce the highest yields possible.
Reasons why plants are more productive with drip irrigation:
- High availability of water and nutrients;
- Doses of water and nutrients tailored to plant development needs;
- No saturation and good soil aeration;
- Prevents high salinity caused by excessive fertiliser application; and
- No wetting of foliage contributing to the prevention of fungal diseases.
Apart from the fact that drip irrigation is cost-effective and eco-friendly, it is also extremely versatile and can be used on any size or shape of field and for any plant species.
The information in this article was retrieved from https://www.netafim.co.za/drip-irrigation/. If you are in need of material or equipment for your own drip irrigation system, you can visit Agri4All. Simply follow this link to the website https://agri4all.com/ad_category/water-management-and-irrigation/.
Photo 1: The dripper lines are connected to a reservoir that keeps a stable water supply. Liquid fertilizer can also be mixed to the correct ratio in the reservoir. The dripper lines run down the planted rows and a dripper is installed at every plant to feed the plant.
Photo 2: A small amount of water is administered to each plant at a constant rate. Only the area that the plant roots can reach is irrigated, thus minimizing water waste. The tempo at which the plant is irrigated matches the plant’s ability to draw moisture from the soil, thus elimination run-off and evaporation.