Drip Irrigation is the practice of applying small amounts of water uniformly across a specific area. The water drips directly to the root zone of the crop minimizing loss of water through evaporation. For a drip irrigation system to be complete, it must have 3 components;
- Source of water– The source of the water can be canals or ditches, shallow wells, rivers and boreholes. The water from these sources can be pumped directly to the drip system or into a water tank which provides water at a constant pressure to the drip system.
- Water tank– The water tank is of 300–3000 liters capacity. It can be plastic, concrete or any other suitable materials. It is always placed 1.0–1.5 m above ground level, so that the system will have enough gravity for water pressure. Filling the tank method depends on the particular situation, by buckets, by a hand pump or by electric/diesel pump from the source of water.
- Drip Irrigation Materials– The drip irrigation comprises the following components:
- Drip Tubes/Pipes
- Drip Emitters
- Tubing Adapter
- End Cap
Things a farmer need to know about drip irrigation
- Water Quality
Salinity is a common problem facing farmers who irrigate in arid climates. This is because all irrigation waters contain soluble salts. Whether derived from springs, diverted from streams, or pumped from wells, the waters contain appreciable quantities of chemical substances in solution, dissolved from the geological strata through and over which the waters have flowed. Waters with a high salt content may have moved from a saline water table. In areas with intensive agriculture, fertilization is a major cause of aquifer salinization.
The intensive treatment of irrigation water required for the proper operation of drip irrigation systems is presently an accepted practice. To control emitter clogging, we need to know the basic causes of clogging. The major clogging factors have been identified and control measures developed to prevent emitter malfunction. All emitter clogging problems, however, have not been solved primarily because of cost. The main approach to control clogging is proper water treatment. The type of treatment is based on the quality of the irrigation water, which can be classified in terms of its physical, chemical and biological composition. The causes of emitter clogging and possible water treatment and preventive measures to maintain reliable operation are reviewed.
Drip pipes/ emitters require Filtration
Filtration is the primary requirement for all drip systems to remove any suspended solids. This can be accomplished with one or multiple filtration methods depending on the water quality issue. In some cases, chemical water treatment may also be required to maintain uniform water application. Chlorine is the treatment chemical used to control microbial growth, decompose organic materials, and oxidize soluble minerals. Potassium permanganate can also be used to oxidize iron. Oxidation will cause minerals to precipitate out of solution so filtration must follow treatment. Acid treatments can be used to lower water pH to maintain solubility of minerals or to dissolve mineral caked around emitters. Equipment for water treatment is similar to chemigation equipment. Filtration should always follow any water treatment to remove any precipitates.
Plants can receive fertilizers using drip system
Fertilizing and watering are two of the most important tasks in a growing operation, and they are two of the most time consuming tasks. Fertilizer injectors are a fast and accurate way to feed plants in a drip irrigation system. Because these injectors deliver liquid nutrients only where plants need it most, that is directly to the roots,–fertilizer injectors are also the most efficient way to nourish plants.
When a drip irrigation system is in place, water soluble fertilizer can be directly dispersed through the system by way of a fertilizer injector. This is called fertigation. Incorporating a fertilizer injector into a drip irrigation system allows you to automate fertilizing as well as watering.
You will need to use a water soluble fertilizer and you will want to filter downstream of the fertilizing unit. Both of these precautions will help minimize the risk of clogging drip emitters. In addition, you will always want to place a backflow preventer upstream of the unit to prevent fertilizer from backflowing into your water source.
Injectors remove a small amount of concentrated fertilizer from a stock tank and inject it into a water line. There are several types of fertilizer injectors. These include ones that use pressurization in the solution tank; venturi types that use a vacuum created by pressure differential across the inlet and outlet of the injector; and another that uses a water driven pump to move fertilizer from the solution tank into the system. These systems inject a precise amount of fertilizer solution to create a particular ratio of solution to water.
Drip irrigation works on all soil types
Soil type can vary considerably within the same field. Drip irrigation systems can be divided into zones to take this variation into account. Each irrigated zone can be divided according to the predominant soil type. The emitter flow rate can also be selected to suit different soil types: high emitter flow rate used on sandy soil and low flow rate on clay soil. Emitter spacing can also be modified based on soil type: longer spacing on clay soil and shorter spacing on sandy soil. Growers using drip irrigation systems should take advantage of these options to maximize water use while minimizing environmental impact.Paying attention to the soil type and the way it should be irrigated will make water usage more efficient and environmentally friendly.
Drip irrigation systems need maintenance
For perennial crops, the drip hose should be lifted periodically if a drip hose system is used on the soil surface, so that leaves, soil, and debris do not cover the hose. If the drip hose is not lifted, roots can grow over the hose, anchor it to the ground, and eventually pinch off the flow of water.
Leaks can occur unexpectedly as a result of damage by insects, animals, or farming tools. Systematically monitor the lines for physical damage. It is important to fix holes as soon as possible to prevent uneven irrigation. If the rate of water flow progressively declines during the season, the tubes or tape may be slowly plugging, resulting in severe damage to the crop.
Once a month, flush the drip lines by opening the far ends of a portion of the tubes at a time and allowing the higher velocity water to flush out the sediment. If poorly treated wastewater is used, soil quality can be degraded over time through accumulation of salts.
Drip irrigation system can be automated
Automatic irrigation is the use of a device to operate irrigation structures so the change of flow of water from bays can occur in the absence of the irrigator.
Automation can be used in a number of ways:
- to start and stop irrigation through supply channel outlets
- to start and stop pumps
- to cut off the flow of water from one irrigation area; either a bay or a section of channel and direct the water to another area.
These changes occur automatically without any direct manual effort, but you may need to spend time preparing the system at the start of the irrigation and maintaining the components so it works properly.
Whether we garden for fun or profit, there’s plenty of effort involved. We work the soil, sow seeds, set in transplants, and we install drip irrigation to water efficiently. We have been able to learn a thing or two when it comes to installing drip irrigation systems and we can be bold and suggest that it is one of the best methods of irrigation.
Any farmer interested in drip irrigation materials and also the installation services should reach out to Mazero Agrifood Ltd through +254729777711.
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