Drip irrigation is the most efficient water and nutrient delivery system for crop irrigation. It delivers water and nutrients directly to the plant’s root-zone, in the right amounts, at the right time. This ensures that each plant gets exactly what it needs, when it needs it, for optimal growth. Thanks to this method of irrigation, farmers can produce higher yields while saving water, fertiliser, energy and even crop protection products.
How does it work?
Water and nutrients are delivered across the field in pipes called driplines featuring emitters known as drippers. Each dripper emits drops containing water and fertilisers, resulting in the uniform application of water and nutrients directly to each plant's root-zone, uniformly across an entire field.
Driplines are installed either on-surface or subsurface. Drippers are spaced along the drippline at a certain spacing. This spacing is determined by the requirements of the crop, plant spacing, and the width and depth-wetting ratio determined by the soil’s physical traits. The dripper is selected with a specific flow rate suited to the crop and conditions.
The concept of drip irrigation was introduced to the global irrigation industry in the 1960s, and ever since massive strides have been made in drip technology. Today, drippers are designed to overcome challenges such sloping fields, challenging water quality, root intrusion and more.
The reason is simple. It does not only deliver greater return on investment than other irrigation methods, it also gives farmers an efficient and simple way to operate their farms and results in:
Just like people, plants need to receive water and nutrients in a balanced way. Nobody wants to or can eat a month's worth of food in one day, and the same goes for plants. This is why drippers apply water and nutrients frequently and in small doses, ensuring optimal growing conditions that helps produce the highest yields possible.
Here’s why plants are more productive with drip irrigation:
By 2050, there will be 10 billion people living on our planet, and 20% less arable land available per person to produce enough food. Include increasing water scarcity in this equation, and it’s clear why we need a way to increase both agricultural productivity and resource efficiency. This is where drip irrigation fits in, changing the economics of global agriculture by allowing farmers to produce more food per hectare and cubic metre of water.
Which crops are suitable for drip irrigation?
Any crop is suitable for this method of irrigation. From field crops such as maize, soya bean or sugarcane, to vegetables and tree crops. Whether plants are grown in soil or in a soilless media, on a flat field or a sloping terrain– it can be a perfect fit..
How efficient is drip irrigation?
With 95 - 100% water-use efficiency, this method of irrigation is known to be one of the most efficient irrigation methods. This is compared to sprinkler irrigation that offer 80 - 85% water-use efficiency or flood and furrow irrigation that offer 60 - 70% water-use efficiency.
Farmers who want to invest in drip irrigation should calculate return on investment compared to alternative irrigation methods. Because drip irrigation delivers significant increases in crop yields while saving on inputs (water, fertiliser, energy and labour), it can pay for itself in a relatively short period of time and ensure higher profit.