On farm evaluation of the effect of low cost drip irrigation on water and crop productivity compared to conventional surface irrigation system uri icon

abstract

  • This on-farm research study was carried out at Zholube irrigation scheme in a semi-arid agro tropical climate of Zimbabwe to determine how low cost drip irrigation technologies compare with conventional surface irrigation systems in terms of water and crop productivity. A total of nine farmers who were practicing surface irrigation were chosen to participate in the study. The vegetable English giant rape (Brassica napus) was grown under the two irrigation systems with three fertilizer treatments in each system: ordinary granular fertilizer, liquid fertilizer (fertigation) and the last treatment with no fertilizer. These trials were replicated three times in a randomized block design. Biometric parameters of leaf area index (LAI) and fresh weight of the produce, water use efficiency (WUE) were used to compare the performance of the two irrigation systems. A water balance of the inflows and outflows was kept for analysis of WUE. The economic profitability and the operation, maintenance and management requirements of the different systems were also evaluated. There was no significant difference in vegetable yield between the irrigation systems at 8.5 ton/ha for drip compared to 7.8 ton/ha in surface irrigation. There were significant increases in yields due to use of fertilizers. Drip irrigation used about 35% of the water used by the surface irrigation systems thus giving much higher water use efficiencies. The leaf area indices were comparable in both systems with the same fertilizer treatment ranging between 0.05 for surface without fertilizer to 6.8 for low cost drip with fertigation. Low cost drip systems did not reflect any labour saving especially when manually lifting the water into the drum compared to the use of siphons in surface irrigation systems. The gross margin level for surface irrigation was lower than for low cost drip irrigation but the gross margin to total variable cost ratio was higher in surface irrigation systems, which meant that surface irrigation systems gave higher returns per variable costs incurred. It was concluded that low cost drip systems achieved water saving of more than 50% compared to surface irrigation systems and that it was not the type of irrigation system that influenced the yield of vegetables significantly but instead it is the type of fertilizer application method that contribute to the increase in the yield of vegetables. It was recommended that low cost technologies should be used in conjunction with good water and nutrient management if higher water and crop productivity are to be realized than surface irrigation systems

publication date

  • 2005
  • 2005