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What is the difference between Sprinkler Irrigation and Drip Irrigation?

Irrigation is an artificial method of ensuring plants get enough water through pipes, ditches, drips, sprinklers etc. The main aim of using irrigation is to curb inadequate rainfall, maintain the landscape and help crop growth. Thus, it’s a very critical practice in farming.

Many farmers in Kenya however, find it hard when it comes to choosing a system that better suits them. The two common systems are sprinkler and drip.

Drip Irrigation

This is a system that provides water directly at the root zone of the plant. Water is controlled and drips slowly on the plants roots exactly where it is require thus saving a lot of water. Through drip system, water is saved up to 50%. Through this system, water application is frequent ensuring the ideal moisture level is maintained at all times.

Advantages of Drip System

  • Water is used at maximum level.
  • Fertilizer/nutrient loss is minimized as water is applied locally and leaching is reduced
  • No water being available to weeds.
  • Maximum crop yield.
  • High efficiency in the use of  fertilizers.
  • Less weed growth and restricts population of potential hosts.
  • Low labour and relatively low operation cost.
  • No soil erosion.
  • Improved infiltration in soil of low intake.
  • Ready adjustment to sophisticated automatic control.
  • No runoff of fertilizers into ground water.
  • Less evaporation losses of water as compared to surface irrigation.
  • Improves seed germination.
  • Decreased to tillage operations.

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Disadvantages of Drip

In spite of the fact that drip has so many potential benefits , they’re a certain limitation also, there are as follow:

  • Sensitivity to clogging
  • Moisture distribution problem
  • Salinity hazards
  • High cost compared to furrow.
  • High skill is required for design, install and operation

Sprinkler Irrigation

Sprinkler is a type of pressurized irrigation that consists of applying water to the soil surface using mechanical and hydraulic devices that simulate natural rainfall. It is a method by which water is distributed from overhead by high-pressure sprinklers, sprays or guns mounted on risers or moving platforms.

Advantages of Sprinkler System

  • Expansive land leveling is not required.
  • Water saving intensity can be changed in accordance with the infiltration capacity of soil.
  • High efficiency due to uniform water distribution.
  • No special skills trained personal can operate the system reasonably well.
  • Ease and uniform application of fertilizers and pesticides through irrigation system.
  • Possibility of applying minute quantity of water for germination and other irrigation systems.
  • Frequent and light irrigation possible giving better response from the crops.
  • Increase in yield and quality, early ripening, water conservation and alternative value of specific period saving of labor, machinery, fertilizer and pesticides.
  • Soil moisture is maintained at optimum level by sprinkler and 20 higher yields are obtained of crops and the quality of other crops is also good.

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Disadvantages of Sprinkler System

  • Higher initial cost.
  • High and continuous energy requirement for operation.
  • Under high wind condition and high temperature distribution and application efficiency is poor.
  • Highly saline water 7mm hos/cm causes leaf burning when temperature higher than 95 F.
  • When lands have been already leveled and developed for surface or other irrigation methods sprinkler irrigation is not so economical.
  • Loss of water due to evaporation from the area during irrigation.
  • Above canopy sprinkling may cause washing of spray, materials and aggravate the incidence of pests and diseases.

The above information is only meant to make you make better decisions.

 

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How to establish the type of irrigation needed in your farm

Irrigation is the artificial application of water to land for the purpose of agricultural production. Effective irrigation will influence the entire growth process from seedbed preparation, germination, root growth, nutrient utilisation, plant growth and regrowth, yield and quality.

The key to maximising irrigation efforts is uniformity. The producer has a lot of control over how much water to supply and when to apply it but the irrigation system determines uniformity. Deciding which irrigation systems is best for your operation requires a knowledge of equipment, system design, plant species, growth stage, root structure, soil composition, and land formation. Irrigation systems should encourage plant growth while minimising salt imbalances, leaf burns, soil erosion, and water loss. Losses of water will occur due to evaporation, wind drift, run-off and water (and nutrients) sinking deep below the root zone.

Proper irrigation management takes careful consideration and vigilant observation.

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Irrigation and its Value

Irrigation allows primary producers,

  • to grow more pastures and crops
  • to have more flexibility in their systems/operations as the ability to access water at times when it would otherwise be hard to achieve good plant growth (due to a deficit in soil moisture) is imperative. Producers can then achieve higher yields and meet market/seasonal demands especially if rainfall events do no occur.
  • to produce higher quality crops/pastures as water stress can dramatically impact on the quality of farm produce
  • to lengthen the growing season (or in starting the season at an earlier time)
  • to have ‘insurance’ against seasonal variability and drought.
  • to stock more animals per hectare and practice tighter grazing management due to the reliability of pasture supply throughout the season
  • to maximise benefits of fertiliser applications. Fertilisers need to be ‘watered into’ the ground in order to best facilitate plant growth.
  • to use areas that would otherwise be ‘less productive’. Irrigation can allow farmers to open up areas of their farms where it would otherwise be ‘too dry’ to grow pasture/crops. This also gives them the capability to carry more stock or to conserve more feed.
  • to take advantage of market incentives for unseasonal production
  • to have less reliance on supplementary feeding (grain, hay) in grazing operations due to the more consistent supply & quality of pastures grown under irrigation
  • to improve the capital value of their property. Since irrigated land can potentially support higher crops, pasture and animal production, it is considered more valuable. The value of the property is also related to the water licensing agreements or ‘water right’.
  • to cost save/obtain greater returns. The cost benefits from the more effective use of fertilisers and greater financial benefits as a result of more effective agricultural productivity (both quality and quantity) and for ‘out of season’ production are likely.

Choosing an irrigation system 

There is a huge diversity in the types of irrigation technologies/systems used, which is attributable to,

  • Variations in soil types
  • Varying topography of the land
  • Availability of power sources
  • Availability of water
  • Sources of water
  • The period of time when the system was installed
  • The size of the area being irrigated
  • On farm water storage capacity
  • Availability of labour/financial resources

Source of irrigation water

The vast majority of irrigation water use is pumped directly from a water source (river, creek, channel, drag line, hole, dam or bore).

Irrigation scheduling

Irrigation scheduling is the process by which an irrigator determines the timing and quantity of water to be applied to the crop/pasture. The challenge is to estimate crop water requirements for different growth stages and climatic conditions.

To avoid over or under watering, it is important to know how much water is available to the plant, and how efficiently the plant can use it. The methods available to measure this include: (i) plant observation, (ii) feel and appearance of the soil, (iii) using soil moisture monitoring devices; or (iv) estimating available water from weather data.

Problems

While irrigation has provided a number of important benefits the potential drawbacks of over/under watering include,

Under-watering

  • Loss in market value through yield reduction
  • Reduction in fruit size and quality

Over-watering

  • Unwanted vegetative growth
  • Losses of valuable water to the watertable
  • Irrigation water travelling over soil can cause erosion. The excessive displacement of the top soil can also affect soil fertility (and hence crop yields), it may also clog drainage ditches and streams (silting), harm aquatic habitats, foul waters used for recreational activities, and increases the need for water treatments.
  • Irrigation can cause pesticides, pathogens and weeds to spread during irrigation
  • Cause runoff
  • Increased operational costs (labour, pumping, cost of water)
  • Leaching of nutrients (eg. salt, phosphorus) may lead to algal growth, salinity an nitrate build ups (poisoning) elsewhere in the catchment
  • Downgraded product quality and reduced yield.
  • Higher operational costs for the producer (hence, reduced profits)
  • Pressue on water resources with the Increasing demand for water use by urban dwellers

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When to Use Sprinkler Irrigation

Sprinkler Irrigation is a way for applying irrigation water which is like precipitation. Water is conveyed through a system of pipes for the most part by pumping. It is then showered into the air and irrigated into the whole soil surface through splash heads with the goal that it separates into little water drops which fall to the ground.

Sprinklers provide effective coverage from small to large-scale regions and are best suit for use on a wide range of properties. It is also versatile to about every single irrigable soil since sprinklers are accessible in an extensive variety of discharge limit.

Best Suited Crops

Sprinkler water system is suited for most row, field and tree crops and water can be splashed over or under the harvest shade. In any case, substantial sprinklers are not prescribed for water system of fragile yields, for example, lettuce in light of the fact that the extensive water drops delivered by the sprinklers may harm the product.

Appropriate slants

Sprinkler water system is versatile to any farmable incline, regardless of whether uniform or undulating. The parallel channels providing water to the sprinklers ought to dependably be laid out along the land shape at whatever point conceivable. This will limit the weight changes at the sprinklers and give a uniform water system.

 

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Suitable soils

Sprinklers are best suited to sandy soils with high infiltration rates although they are adaptable to most soils. The average application rate from the sprinklers (in mm/hour) is always chosen to be less than the basic infiltration rate of the soil so that surface ponding and runoff can be avoided.

Sprinklers are not suitable for soils which easily form a crust. If sprinkler irrigation is the only method available, then light fine sprays should be used. The larger sprinklers producing larger water droplets are to be avoided.

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Suitable irrigation water

A decent clean supply of water, free of suspended sediments, is required to keep away from issues of sprinkler spout blockage and ruining the product by covering it with residue.