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Drip Irrigation - Making Each Drop Count

If you think of a field getting watered, more often than not, the image that pops right up is a hose spraying water over acres and acres of crops. Isn't it intriguing to think of exactly what is getting watered here - the field (acres and acres of it) or the plants? Well, you may say both but imagine the amount of water that is not reaching plants - surely, there are ways to reduce this wastage, right?

Technique of drip irrigation 

While irrigation methods like sprinklers or hoses deliver water to the field, drip irrigation delivers water to the plants and even more specifically, to the roots. This is achieved by laying pipes or ‘dripper lines’ either at the surface or subsurface level. Water (or fertilisers and nutrients) is then pumped through these pipes directly to the plants. 

Drip irrigation ends up benefiting farmers, plants and the planet itself because it uses significantly lesser water.

Advantages

(1) Targeted watering: it is easier to maintain moisture levels near the roots of plants.  It also means that plants get:

  • Optimum levels of water / nutrients / fertilisers everyday
  • Well-aerated soil
  • Balanced moisture - so no fungal growth

(2) Water use efficiency:  irrigation in India uses up almost 80% of water mainly due to the inefficient use of flood irrigation. This is huge and the impact is also a larger amount of wastage. Drip irrigation systems deliver more than 90% efficiency in a farm, compared to 40% of flood irrigation. 

(3)  ‘Land friendly’: drip irrigation can be deployed:

  • in any soil type
  • with almost no investment in field leveling
  • to reduce soil erosion
  • in any topography

(4)   Versatile: the dripper lines can be used to also deliver fertilisers and micro nutrients with more granular control. Depending on the design of the drip irrigation pipe network, a farmer can also control the quantity of water or nutrients to specific areas of their field.

(5) Savings: when there is virtually no run-off and no wastage of water, farmers get to enjoy savings on energy and a precious resource called water!

(6) Plants love the drips! Due to better use of water & fertilisers, plants fare better too. 

  • 230% - that’s the increase in yield
  • 30% is increase in fertiliser use
  • 70% - that’s the savings in water

India, the world & drip irrigation

Known also as trickle irrigation or micro-irrigation, drip irrigation has shown up all over the world. Kenya increased its tomato yield with drip irrigation. Sudan saved 60% of its water with this method and farmers in Mauritius are doubling their yields. 

India has staked claim to having the world’s largest automated single drip irrigation project. Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh and Gujarat - to name just a few states - are also harnessing drip irrigation to:

  • Boost earnings for farmers
  • Increase crop productivity
  • Save water and
  • Make farming sustainable

There is something to be said about adopting smart irrigation methods like drip irrigation. When the world is working hard to conserve water and improve farming practices, why waste energy (literally & figuratively) in conventional methods when we can make every drop count?