Crops Suitable for Drip Irrigation, Types of Drip Irrigation

Introduction: Hello farmers and gardeners, we are back with a great information of types of drip irrigation and crops suitable for drip irrigation. Drip irrigation is a process of controlled irrigation in which water is slowly delivered to the root system of multiple plants. In this process, water is either dripped onto the soil surface above the roots or directly to the root zone. It is often a method chosen over surface irrigation as it helps to reduce water evaporation.

A step by step guide to crops suitable for drip irrigation 

Drip irrigation systems distribute water by using a network of valves, pipes, tubing, and emitters. Depending on how well designed, installed, maintained, and operated then the drip irrigation system can be efficient than other types of irrigation systems, for example, surface irrigation or sprinkler irrigation.

Drip irrigation is the most efficient water and nutrient delivery system for growing several crops. It delivers water and nutrients directly to the plant’s roots zone, in the correct amounts, at the right time, so each plant gets exactly what it needs, when it needs it, to grow optimally. By using drip irrigation, farmers can produce higher yields while saving on the water as well as fertilizers, energy and even crop protection products.

Drip irrigation can help reduce evaporation and runoff and contribute to water conservation. However, before this system can work correctly it should be properly installed and managed.

A Guide to Drip Irrigation.
A Guide to Drip Irrigation.

Types of drip irrigation

The two main types of drip irrigation can be given below;

Surface drip irrigation – The water is delivered to the surface of the soil directly above the root system of the several plants. This particular type of drip irrigation is mostly used on high-value crops. Surface drip irrigation (also known as drop-by-drop irrigation, trickle irrigation, micro-irrigation or localized irrigation) consists of a polyethylene pipe, inside which has been implanted a pressure compensating dripper. Its implementation is simple since all you have to do is place the drip system on the crop row manually or by machine.

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Subsurface drip irrigation – In these the water is applied directly to the root system. This type is used mainly in growing row crops. Subsurface drip irrigation (SDI) system uses permanently or temporarily buried dripper line or drip tape located at or below the plant roots. It is becoming popular for row crop irrigation, particularly in areas where water supplies are limited, or recycled water is used for irrigation.

The subsurface drip (Subsurface Drip Irrigation) irrigation is an innovative solution, powered by the latest generation of polyethylene tapes that can be buried to a depth of about 30 cm. These ducts are fitted with drippers (spaced from 40 to 50 cm, in general) with a flow rate which remains close to the nominal speed, with good uniformity, when operating in the variation of pressure range (0.5- 2.5 bar) recommended by the manufacturer.

The innovative nature of this system equipment is that it opposes the invasion of the drippers by particles of soil and roots. In addition, the emitters are provided with an anti-siphon and the tape empties automatically as soon as the water is cut. These features differentiate them from the systems tested more than 20 years ago, such as porous pipes. Finally, according to the manufacturers, the lifetime of subsurface drip irrigation would be about 20 years. In the event that this period may be actually reached subsurface drip irrigation surpasses largely, from an economic point of view, wheel line system.

Water quality for drip irrigation

Water for a drip irrigation system can come from wells, ponds, rivers, lakes, municipal water systems, or plastic-lined pits. Water from these different sources will have large differences in quality. Well, water and municipal water is normally clean and may require only a screen or disk filter to remove particles. However, no matter how clean the water looks, a water analysis or quality test prior to considering the installation of a drip irrigation system should be completed to determine if precipitates or other contaminants are in the water. This water quality analysis must identify inorganic solids such as sand and silt; organic solids such as algae, bacteria, and slime; dissolved solids such as iron, sulfur, sodium chlorides, and calcium; and pH level of the water.

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Major components of a drip irrigation system

  • Pump station takes water from the source and gives the right pressure for delivery into the pipe system.
  • Control valves control the discharge and pressure in the whole system.
  • The filtration system will help to clean the water. Common types of filter contain screen filters and graded sand filters which remove fine material suspended in the water.
  • Fertilizer tank or venturi slowly adds a measured dose of fertilizer into the water during irrigation. And this is one of the major advantages of drip irrigation over other methods.
  • Plastic connectors or couplings could be used to connect the drip line to the sub-main.
  • Mainlines, sub mains, and the laterals supply water from the control head into the fields. They are usually made from PVC or polyethylene hose and should be buried below ground because they simply degrade when exposed to direct solar radiation. Lateral pipes are usually 13 to 32 mm in diameter.
  • Emitters or drippers are devices mainly used to control the discharge of water from the lateral to the plants. They are spaced more than 1 meter apart with one or more emitters used for a single plant such as a tree. For row crops more closely spaced emitters can be used to wet a strip of soil. Many different emitter designs have been formed in recent years. The design is to generate an emitter that will give a specified constant discharge which does not vary much with pressure changes. 

Commercial Drip Irrigation System

Expensive commercial drip irrigation is employed in highly technical and industrial farming. The used systems are expensive and need expert design and maintenance.

Most large drip irrigation systems employ some kind of filter to prevent clogging of the small emitter flow path by small waterborne particles. Some new technologies are now being offered that minimize clogging. Some residential systems are installed without additional filters because potable water is already filtered at the water treatment plant. Virtually all drip irrigation equipment manufacturers recommend that filters be employed and normally will not honor warranties unless this is done. Drip systems often mix liquid fertilizer with the irrigation water and this is called fertigation and chemigation.

Small Scale and Self-Made Drip Irrigation Systems

For a relatively very low initial investment, a small-scale farmer can buy and set up a drip-irrigation system. If it is used to grow several crops for the market, this investment will pay itself within the first season and increased household food production. Apply correct design (that might need training of the farmers), simple drip systems can be built with locally available material. Using buckets or barrels as a water reservoir and bamboo or PVC tubes as distribution pipes, everyone can construct an efficient irrigation system. If wastewater can be used, a filtration unit after the treatment plant is recommended to avoid the clogging of the emitters.

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Crops suitable for Drip Irrigation System

Some of the crops suitable for drip irrigation system can be given below;

Orchard crops are Grapes, Banana, Pomegranate, Orange, Citrus, Mango, Lemon, Custard Apple, Sapota, Guava, Pineapple, Cashew nut, Papaya, Litchi, and Watermelon, etc.

Vegetable plants – Some vegetable plants suitable for the drip irrigation system are Tomato, Chilly, Capsicum, Cabbage, Cauliflower, Onion, Okra, Brinjal, Bitter Gourd, Ridge Gourd, Cucumber, Peas, Spinach, and Pumpkin, etc.

Cash crops – Some of the cash crops suitable for the drip irrigation system are Sugarcane, Cotton. Areca nut and Strawberry etc.

Flowers plants – Some of the flower plants suitable for the drip irrigation system are Rose, Carnation, Gerbera, Anthurium, Orchids, Jasmine, Dahilia, and Marigold, etc.

Plantation crops – Some of the plantation crops suitable for the drip irrigation system are Rubber, Coffee, Coconut, etc.

Spices – Some of the spices crops suitable for drip irrigation system are Turmeric, Cloves, Mint, etc,

Oilseeds – Some of the oilseeds suitable for drip irrigation systems are Sunflower, Oil palm, Groundnut, etc.

Forest crops­ – Some of the forest crops suitable for drip irrigation systems are Teakwood, Bamboo, etc.

Water conservation through drip irrigation

Water is conserved through drip irrigation in the following ways;

  • Drip irrigation application uniformity is high, usually over 90%.
  • Unlike sprinklers, drip irrigation system applies water directly to the soil, eliminating water loss from wind.
  • Application rates are low so water can be spoon-fed to the crop or plant root zone in the exact amounts required (even on a daily or hourly basis). In contrast, other methods entail higher water application quantities and very less frequency. If young plants require water frequently, much of the water applied is often wasted to deep percolation or runoff.
  • Low application rates are less to runoff from heavier soils.
  • Drip irrigation system easily adapts to odd-shaped planting areas which are difficult to address with sprinklers or gravity irrigation.
  • The drip irrigation system is capable of germinating seeds and setting transplants which eliminate the need for “sprinklering up” and eliminates the resulting waste in the early stages of crop growth.

Design of a Simple Drip Irrigation System

A simple drip system can consist of a 20-liter bucket with 30 meters (100 feet) of hose or drip tape connected to the bottom of the tank. The bucket is placed at least 1 meter (3 feet) above the ground so that gravity provides sufficient water pressure to ensure even watering for the whole crop. Clean water is poured into the bucket daily through a filter or strainer. The water in the bucket fills the drip tape and evenly distributed to 100 watering points. A multi-chambered plastic drip tape is engineered to dispense water through openings spaced at 30cm and bucket kit is the smallest type of drip irrigation. A filter after the control valve can be installed, to prevent blockages (e.g. a screen) or an even more developed filter to develop the water quality.

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Why do plants prefer drip irrigation?

Just like people, plants like to obtain their water and nutrients in a balanced way. Nobody wants to eat a month’s worth of food in one day, and the same goes for plants. This is why a drip irrigation system applies to water and nutrients frequently and in small doses, ensuring optimal growing conditions that help to produce the highest yields possible.

Plants are more productive with a drip irrigation system because;

  • High availability of water and nutrients
  • Doses of water and nutrients tailored to the plant’s development needs
  • No saturation and good soil aeration
  • Avoids high salinity caused by excessive fertilizer application
  • No wetting of foliage that can result in fungal diseases

Specific adaptations to vegetables

A drip irrigation system can be used in the orchard, nursery, windbreaks, landscape, and other crop applications. This will concentrate only on applications for vegetable crops. Because vegetables are usually planted in rows, drip tubing with pre-punched emitter holes, called a line source emitter, is used to get a continuous strip along the row. Also, most vegetables are considered annuals and are grown for only one season, a thin-walled disposable tubing generally is used for only one season. Less emphasis is generally placed on buried mainlines and sub-mainlines to allow the system to be dismantled and moved from season to season. Costs could be high, so a goal should be to develop an inexpensive yet functional system that allows maximum production with minimal costs. You can purchase an entire system from an irrigation dealer or adapt your own components.

Advantages of drip irrigation

The advantages of drip irrigation can be given below;

  • Fertilizer and nutrient loss will be minimized due to a localized application and reduced leaching.
  • Water application efficiency is very high if managed correctly.
  • Field leveling is not necessary and fields with irregular shapes are easily accommodated.
  • Soil type plays a less important in the frequency of irrigation.
  • Soil erosion and weed growth are lessened.
  • Water distribution is highly uniform and controlled by the output of each nozzle.
  • Labor cost is less in drip irrigation than other irrigation methods.
  • Variation in supply can be regulated by regulating the valves and the drippers.
  • Fertigation can be easily included with minimal waste of fertilizers.
  • Usually operated at a lower pressure than other kinds of pressurized irrigation, reducing energy costs.
  • Saves water up to 70% compared to flood irrigation and more land can be irrigated with the water thus saved.
  • Early maturity effects in higher and faster returns on investment and fertilizer use efficiency increases by 30%.
  • Undulating terrains, Saline, Waterlogged, Sandy and Hilly lands can also be brought under productive cultivation.

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