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A genuine solution for organic agriculture


Since 1965, Netafim employees around the world have gained invaluable on-the-field experience. Working closely with generations of farmers, these experts deliver efficient, innovative and sustainable irrigation solutions to local crops, soils, and waters. In 2003, Netafim joined IFOAM, The International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements, in order to comply with its principles (link to X) and to better serve farmers who are committed to organic agriculture.

What is organic agriculture?

Organic agriculture, as defined by IFOAM, is a production system that sustains the health of soils, ecosystems and people. It relies on ecological processes, biodiversity and cycles adapted to local conditions, rather than the use of inputs with adverse effects. Organic agriculture combines tradition, innovation and science to benefit the shared environment and promote fair relationships and a good quality of life for all involved.

Related terms:Alternative agriculture, bio-organic agriculture, sustainable agriculture

Netafim and organic agriculture
Netafim has developed irrigation systems for organic production as a response to the global consumer trend for safe food. This is presumably guaranteed by practicing organic agriculture principles while maintaining an optimal soil-plant-water balance and preserving the ecosystem. At the base of the Netafim solution is the concept of Nutrigation, a company trademark that represents the application of plant nutrients in liquid form through an irrigation system.

Organic Nutrigation is when liquid organic fertilizers are used within a drip irrigation system in favor of organic crops.

Advantages related to the use of drip irrigation and organics

  • Ensures accurate irrigation and Nutrigation
  • Reduces weeds
  • Activates compost as the main source of nutrients
  • Saves water, reduces runoffs
  • Maintains the correct water and air balance in the soil
  • Prevents diseases; drip irrigation keeps leaves and fruit dry- Economizes on manpower costs and minimizes hands-on involvement

Netafim’s organic solution

A solution that combines technology and know-how has been available by Netafim since 2003. This solution was designed to respond to various questions raised in the field by growers of organic crops, such as:

  • "Can I apply organic liquid nutrients through a drip irrigation system?
  • “What are the requisites for organic liquid nutrients so that they suit a drip system?”
  • “Can I administer liquid cow manure through a drip irrigation system?”
  • “Is it possible to better prepare compost by using a low volume irrigation system?”
  • “How can I keep my drip systems working for years using organic nutrients?”
  • “Does Netafim have experience in drip irrigation equipment maintenance related to organic agriculture?"

Solution criteria

A successful solution to bio-organic agriculture means ensuring optimal plant nutrition while restoring the soil and its micro-organisms to their natural state. With synthetic fertilizer, pesticides and herbicides prohibited, compost and other organic and natural nutrient sources play a key role. Nevertheless, using natural nitrogen sources for fertilization in the irrigation system requires special attention, such as proper filtration and maintenance as well as periodical flushing of the drip system to avoid potential clogging. The solution Netafim defined for growers had to incorporate advanced technology and valuable know-how.

The technology

In 2002, Netafim developed a free-flow irrigation system that operates with a bio-Nutrigation head device maintaining a clean system all season long. This system was Netajet. (link to the product)

The know-how

Dealing with clogging
One of the major problems affecting the efficiency of organic agriculture irrigation is the creation of bacterial slime and lime scale, which can decrease flow rate and clog the dripper. This problem was resolved by providing suitable disinfestation to enable the free flow of nutrient-enriched water through the pipes. According to Oscar Lutenberg, Organic Agriculture Knowledge Leader at Netafim (link to the end of this section),

“We use only materials approved by the IFOAM and the Plant Protection and Inspection Service, such as Sodium Hypochlorite, Oxygen Peroxide and several organic acids for breaking down the scale layer in the inner tube.”

Using compost

Composting is vital for organic production. It efficiently treats and stabilises fresh organic material, destroys weed seeds and pathogenic microbes, reduces the volume of organic waste and prevents environmental pollution. Adding compost to the soil improves its physical characteristics, aerates heavy and clay soils, improves the water retention capacity of light and sandy soils, stimulates the development of biomass, reduces the carbon/nitrogen ratio and provides the soil with humic elements.

When used in compost preparation, low-volume irrigation technology, either micro-sprinklers or drip-lines, is extremely effective in preventing nutrient leaching and resulting environmental contamination.

The experience

Since the year 2000, Netafim has adjusted its technology and know-how for the benefit of organic production. Starting in Greece, the company’s teams have worked with farmers growing citrus, olives and corn, the latter slated for feeding chickens and the production of organic meat. Later on, this collaboration extended to include many more countries worldwide, especially in North and South America as well as in Europe.

Netafim’s organic package

In addition to recommendations for irrigation equipment, the Netafim package includes technical guidance, providing growers with methods for maintaining an optimal organic system, as follows:

1. Hydraulic planning and solutions to suit individual farm requirements. The program takes into account environmental conditions, topography, varying soil types and the nature and availability of water sources. The flexible systems are designed to produce maximum yields at a minimum costs.

2. Deployment of an accurate irrigation system to control weeds and can carry different water qualities.

3. Comprehensive support for irrigation and nutrient management of all crop types in open field and greenhouse cultivation, compost application, equipment maintenance and dis-infestation.

4. Application of an irrigation system that adapts itself to the crop type. These can be either above-surface or subsurface drip irrigation (SDI) systems.

5. Advice on the accurate spread of compost and installation of dripper lines above the compost to provide the crop with all its required nutrients through the drip irrigation system.

6. For fruit plantations, “feeding channels” designed to provide trees with a three-year compost supply. This technology uses open ditches with above-surface drippers and, when necessary, micro-sprinklers. Netafim has pioneered this technology especially for organic cultivation.

7. For open field cultivation, a water efficient system that accurately places the dripper near the target to control weeds and prevent leaves from getting wet.

What is the value for you?

You can expect to achieve the most sustainable results possible, wherever in the world you may be as you benefit from our combined assets. These include hands-on field experience in organic crops from supporting farmers, an in-depth academic reach gained through our collaborations with scientific researchers, as well as an extensive global presence. Organic agriculture knowledge leader

Beyond the local specialists in many of the subsidiaries around the world, Netafim employs a dedicated Knowledge Leader who is committed to this evolving field.

Oscar Lutenberg (B.Sc. Agr.) serves as the Organic Crop Team Manager at Netafim Agro-Marketing Division. Oscar has accompanied Netafim in becoming a member of The International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM) and represents Netafim as a member of the Israeli Bio-Organic Agriculture Association (IBOAA).

Research & Academy - Oscar Lutenberg is involved in field experiments and laboratory fertigation research, including agro technology instruction and drip irrigation pipe testing. Oscar holds a Bachelor of Science in Soil and Water & Environmental Quality Sciences, Faculty of Agriculture, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel (graduated 1997).

Related links

The World of Organic Agriculture - Statistics and Emerging Trends 2007

The International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM)
IFOAM is the worldwide umbrella organization for the organic movement, uniting member organizations in more than a hundred countries

The Research Institute of Organic Agriculture (FiBL)
A German, Swiss & Austrian International Research Center on Organic Agriculture

The International Society of Organic Agriculture Research (ISOFAR)
Promotes and supports research in all areas of organic agriculture by facilitating global co-operation in research and education

United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)
National Organic Program (NOP)

Organic Cotton Research Project - Madhya Pradesh, India

A summary of mid-term newsletter progress report 2004
Courtesy of Netafim University

Research participants:

FiBL - Institute for OrganicAgriculture, Switzerland

IWMI - International Water Management Institute, Anand, Gujarat, India

Maikaal BioRe (India) Ltd. - Bhikangon, Madhya Pradesh, India

The project is designed to answer three questions:

  • With which agricultural system the farmer is better off?
  • How and why do farmers adapt to innovations?
  • How can the technology, marketing and extension be improved?

Furthermore, the study is an effort to understand what encourages and what limits the adoption of drip irrigation systems by the cotton farmers.

The economic performance of organic is compared to conventional cotton growing in Madhya Pradesh, central India.

Sixty organic and sixty conventional cotton farmers were selected in ten villages. The farmers were instructed on keeping records on input and output of their cotton farming with the help of forms in the local language. All cotton fields of the sample farmers have been measured accurately by the field research team. The water productivity, power requirements and crop production under four irrigation systems: Drip, easy drip, Pepcee (a local low-cost system) and furrow; adopted by the farmers are compared. A simulation model is used to evaluate the results.

The farmers of the Nimar region, South-west of Madhya Pradesh, are enthusiastic about using drip irrigation and its adoption is picking up at a fast rate. Given the existing land utilization pattern of this region, the potential for future adoption of drip irrigation is good. The success of the system in the Nimar region is expected to encourage its adoption in other places as well. Some 80 Km South of Nimar, in the Jalgaon area of Maharashtra, a phenomenal adoption of drip irrigation technology was also observed. As part of the project, farmers are being instructed by the extension service on the best ways to maximize the benefits from drip irrigation.

Key words: Cotton, drip irrigation, economic performance, organic agriculture, power requirements, water productivity

Geographic terms: India, Madhya Pradesh

More about the project: The project is supported by the Swiss Development Cooperation (SDC) and the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF).

Netafim brochure organic

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