Micro Irrigation - Advantages



Micro irrigation systems have many potential advantages when compared to other irrigation methods.

Water savings: irrigation water requirements can be smaller when compared to other irrigation methods. This is due to irrigation of a smaller portion of the soil volume, decreased evaporation from the soil surface and the reduction or elimination of the runoff. Since the micro irrigation system allows for a high level of water control application, water can be applied only when needed and deep percolation can be minimised or avoided.

Water efficiency: can reduce water usage by 25-40% compared to overhead systems, and 45-60% compared to surface irrigation, because do not wet the entire field, less -evaporation, deep percolation and the runoff minimised, too.

Low application rates: micro irrigation systems are design to supply an individual plant's water requirement by a daily application. A low application rate means a less expensive irrigation system and more efficient utilisation of pumps, filters and pipelines because these system components may be sized for lower flow rates and used for longer periods of time.

Uniformity of water application: micro irrigation systems have an excellent uniformity of water application, therefore all plants receive the same amount of water. Good uniformity results in more efficient irrigation, which leads to savings of water, power and fertiliser. An even, consistent application of water also results in better, more uniform yields, because each plant is given exactly as much water and nutrients as it needs for optimum growth.

Energy saving: a smaller power unit is required compared to other irrigation systems. Usually, the delivery pipe systems operate under low pressure (2 - 4 bar) and requires less energy for pumping.

Improved chemical application: micro irrigation systems allow for a high level of control of chemical applications. The plants can be supplied with the exact amount of fertiliser required at a given time. Since they are applied directly to the root zone, a reduction in the total amount of fertiliser used is possible (average 25-50% cost savings in chemicals and fertilisers). This application method is more economical, provides better distribution of nutrients throughout the season and decreases ground water pollution due to the high concentration of chemicals that could ordinarily move with deep percolated water. Other chemicals such as herbicides, insecticides, fungicides, growth regulators and carbon dioxide can be efficiently applied through micro irrigation systems to improve crop production.

Weed and disease reduction: because of limited wetted area, weed growth is inhibited and disease occurrences reduced.

Field operations are more flexible: can be applied on windy days and during operations, can function without interruption when harvesting.

Improved tolerance to salinity: micro irrigation reduces the sensitivity of most crops to saline water, soil-water conditions due to the maintenance of high moisture levels in the root zone. The frequent application of water continually replaces moisture removed by the plant and moves salts away from the plant out to the edges of the root zone. These salts precipitate out of the water at the edge of the wetted parameter. This process prevents the harmful combination of high soil salinity and low moisture from occurring. Therefore, crops under micro irrigation systems are more tolerant of saline water and soil conditions.

Improved quality and yield: crop quality and yield under micro irrigation is improved because of the slow, regular, uniform application of water and nutrients. In addition damage and losses due to water contact with fruit or foliage are eliminated.

Adoption to any topography and soils: micro irrigation systems can operate efficiently on any topography if appropriately designed and managed. The low application rate that micro irrigation systems provide is ideal for heavy clay soils with low infiltration rates as the water can be applied slowly enough for the soil to absorb it without surface runoff occurring. On the other hand, very sandy soils frequently cannot store large amounts of water. Micro irrigation is ideal for these soils too, because of its ability to frequently provide small amounts of water to the crop.

Automation: a micro irrigation system can be easily automated using electrical solenoid valves and a controller. This allows the system to be operated any time of the day or night and for any desired length of time enabling irrigation managers to take advantage of available crop water use information in determining optimum irrigation time. Soil moisture sensors can be used to further automate the system.

Reduced labour cost: one of the major advantages of the micro irrigation system is labour savings. Labour requirements are low because of the low application rates allow larger areas to be irrigated at one time and because the systems can be fully automated. In addition to the direct savings in labour, there are often indirect labour savings due to the reduced number of cultivations, the elimination of fertiliser application as a separate operation.

Most of the sprinklers, sprayers and jets are insect protected - nozzles are closed after operation to avoid any clogging caused by insects or other debris.

If these benefits are not achieved, the investment in a micro irrigation system is not worth it. Product life with good quality equipment, good operation and management can last up to 15-20 years.


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