Drip Irrigation for Better Water Management
Climate change is no longer a myth and its effect can be seen everywhere. The sector which has been drastically affected by this is agriculture. Many farmers face water management problems due to scarcity of water. Efficient usage of water plays a key role in getting good yield from the crops. For example, if crops do not get enough water at the optimum time, it could lead to less produce and increased pest problems. This results in higher-cost investment and therefore less income. A lot of it also depends on the type of crop grown and the specific crops water requirement. For example, paddy and sugarcane are water-intensive crops that require a lot of water, while crops like soya bean or wheat require less water for irrigation. Drip irrigation is seen by many farmers as a viable solution to conserve water and ensure it is managed effectively.
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Is Drip Irrigation a Solution to India’s Water Problems?
In India, agriculture alone accounts for about 75-80% of water consumption. India will face water problems by 2050 as reported by OECD environmental outlook.
The drip irrigation system can be one of many ways to save water and utilize water efficiently. Many farmers in India use flood irrigation. Flood irrigation has water coming directly from the source and this water flows through open channels made of soil. This method of irrigation is not efficient because only 40 to 60 % of water reaches the plant and the rest gets either evaporated or is wasted in the runoff. However, the drip irrigation system allows 90% of the water to directly reach the plant.
Young potatoes growing in the field connected to drip irrigation.
What is Drip Irrigation?
Drip irrigation system consists of water delivery pipes that vary in diameters. Different channels and subchannels are created according to the chosen pipe diameter. The pipe diameter is selected based on water pressure and crop type. These pipes are made from plastic type HDPE (high-density polyethylene). It has one pump that creates pressure to deliver the water at the required place.
So why it is more efficient than flood irrigation? This is because it helps in getting water directly to the root of the plant. Using this method, it is easy to mix fertilizers and other nutrients to the water. This can reduce any external cost on resources. However, price of drip irrigation does vary quite a lot. Depending on the diameter of the pipe used, it may range from INR 30,000 to INR 60,000 per acre of land.
With tech advancement, there are even solar micro-irrigation systems in the market. Solar drip irrigation system consists of solar panels that store solar energy, which is connected to a generator that drives the pump. The pump increases the pressure which helps to regulate the flow of water into different channels.
- Helps in increasing the yield or productivity of crop
- It saves water required for irrigation
- It helps in saving the fertilizer need to be given to the crop
- There is less weed growth
- It saves manual labor cost
- More sustainable way of irrigating compared to flood irrigation that uses diesel
- It leads to fewer pests and plant diseases
Drip Irrigation and Sustainable Development Goals
SDG1 (No poverty), SDG2 (Zero hunger), and SDG13 (Climate action) are the major SDG goals that are directly addressed from drip irrigation. This method can help small and marginal farmers utilize the water efficiently and they can get better yield and better profit margins.
- One of the major constraints is the price of a drip irrigation system.
- If the water quality is not good, then pipes can get blocked. This happens in the nozzle and water will not be delivered properly to the plant. This is not easy to monitor.
- If the pipe is damaged by rats or any other animals, then the whole drip pipe will need to be replaced.
- Another issue is the design. The distance of the nozzle for each crop type will vary. Therefore, farmers have to buy new drip irrigation pipes for different crop types.
- For example, drip for the cotton crop cannot be used for groundnut as the distance between two plants in a column varies for cotton and groundnut.
Even though there are many new technologies and innovations in the drip irrigation system, its cost-effectiveness still remains a major source of issue for farmers. This is something where the governments can assist the farmers by further subsiding the cost of drip irrigation system. On the other hand, innovators could also improve the design of the drip irrigation system to cater for multiple crops.
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