Statistics show that “the global drip irrigation market size was valued at USD 4.63 billion in 2018 and is projected to reach USB 9.37 billion by 2026, exhibiting a CAGR of 9.30%”.
Known for its water and nutrient-saving properties, drip irrigation is an efficient micro-watering system. Made of a network of valves, drip lines, or dripperlines, pipes, and emitters, this system is installed on top of or under the soil. The emitters are placed evenly along the pipe and are designed to release water in a drip or trickle directly to the plant base, irrigating the root zone rather than the soil.
Invented by Israel in the 1960s, drip irrigation technology has spread rapidly ever since. Drip irrigation is among the widely preferred irrigation methods in the drier regions of farming in Australia. This efficient method of irrigation offers 90% or even higher efficiency unlike, sprinkler systems which are usually around 80-85% water use efficiency or flood and furrow that is around 60-70% efficient.
In this blog, we have discussed the functioning of drip irritation and its advantages and disadvantages.
What makes Drip Irrigation so Efficient?
There are several reasons that make drip irrigation one of the most efficient and environmentally sustainable irrigation methods.
- You can use this system for recycled or treated wastewater because regulations do not allow spraying water that doesn’t meet potable water standards in the air.
- Evaporation and the risk of some diseases from airborne delivery can be reduced by delivering water directly to the base of the plant.
- You can get precise and slow delivery when the right quantity of water is dispersed at the right time with no run-off or waste.
- To save fertilizer, you can pump liquid fertilizer through the system and deliver it with irrigation water.
- Even though the upfront cost of a drip system is higher than some other irrigation methods, you should consider the return on investment since drip systems deliver significant savings on inputs including water, fertilizer, energy, and labour while enhancing crop yields and quality.
How does Drip Irrigation Work?
The drip irrigation system comprises several components including a pump or pressurized water source, a filtration system, a backwash controller, a pressure control valve, distribution lines, valves (pressure, air release, and isolation), drip lines, or poly tube and emitters, poly fittings, and accessories.
When water is pumped directly from the water supply, it travels through the primary filtration system, and removes any fine particles that could block the emitters or drip lines. Here, you can add a chemical injection fertilizer system. Now, the water is pumped into the field through a secondary filter and different valves to the drip line laterals and emitters.
What is an emitter?
The final piece in the drip irrigation system is the emitter or ‘dripper’. These are either welded inside the drip line during the extrusion process or they come as individual pieces that can be attached directly to a lateral pipe as needed. There are several variations and features including pressure-compensating or non-pressure compensating, anti-siphon, anti-drain, extra root resistance, and more. Each dripper discharges water at a very uniform flow rate under a specific range of pressures.
Where is Drip Irrigation Used?
Starting from field crops like maize, soybean or sugarcane, to vegetables, vineyards, tree crops, and greenhouse crops, drip irrigation can be used for any crop. Be it growing in soil or a soil less platform, flat field or on sloping terrain, drip irrigation suits all topographies. Drip irrigation is also perfect for domestic use and is used under lawns, flower beds, in vertical gardens, and pot plants.
To be precise, the drip irrigation system is suited for:
- Orchard Crops like grapes, bananas, pomegranates, oranges, citrus, mango, lemon, custard apple, sapota, guava, pineapple, coconut, cashewnut, papaya, aonla, litchi, watermelon, muskmelon, etc.
- Vegetables such as tomato, chilli, capsicum, cabbage, cauliflower, Onion, Okra, brinjal,bitter gourd, ridge gourd, cucumber, peas, spinach, pumpkin, etc.
- Cash crops such as sugarcane, cotton, arecanut, strawberry, etc.
- Flowers like rose, carnation, gerbera, anthurium, orchids, jasmine, dahlia, marigold, etc.
- Plantation crops like tea, rubber, coffee, coconut, etc.
- Spices such as turmeric, cloves, mint, etc.
- Oil seeds including sunflower, oil palm, groundnut, etc.
- Forest crops such as teakwood, bamboo, etc.
Advantages of Drip Irrigation
- It offers precise water and nutrient delivery at the base of the plant.
- The drip delivery method leads to reduced water and fertilizer waste.
- Drip irrigation involves less risk of erosion.
- For drip irrigation, you wouldn’t need to level the field.
- You can accommodate 100% land utilization through irregularly shaped fields.
- The risk of plant disease is low as water is delivered at the base and doesn’t touch the foliage.
- Since drip systems work on low pressures, energy savings is an added advantage.
- The quality yields are high and more consistent.
- Another advantage of drip irrigation is good soil aeration and no saturation.
- Drip irrigation also avoids high salinity caused due to excessive fertilizer application.
Disadvantages of Drip Irrigation
- The initial cost of drip irrigation is higher than other irrigation systems.
- To avoid clogging, water should be filtered from time to time.
- To implement drip irrigation, you need a better understanding of irrigation scheduling and system maintenance.
- It leads to a build-up of salt at the edge of the wetting pattern.
- One of the biggest disadvantages of drip irrigation is that the pipes and tubes are prone to rodent damage.
- This irrigation cannot be used for night frost damage control.
If you require a deeper insight into drip irrigation in Australia, browse through the KG2 Australia website’s comprehensive agribusiness database. Or, contact us for a detailed understanding of drip irrigation and how it has proven beneficial to several farmers in Australia.