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Best Irrigation Methods in Different Soils

Types of soils and the best irrigation methods

Irrigation systems such as flood irrigation apply water at a faster rate in different soils which results in wastage of water through run-off and evaporation. The plants cannot fully utilize all the water since it saturates into the soil quickly. The application of large amounts of water can also result in leaching and water-logging. The rate at which water soaks into the soil depends is determined by the type of the soil. It is therefore important to identify the soil type and how it reacts with water before setting up a drip irrigation system. Since water is a scarce but valuable resource, it should be preserved. Water should be applied at different rates depending on the soil type.

In sandy soils, water moves quickly and goes deep into the soil. The wetting pattern is mainly vertical than horizontal in this soil type. When doing irrigation on sandy soils, higher flow drippers which are spaced closely should be used to ensure that plants receive sufficient water.

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Since the soil is dense, the rate of water absorption in clay soil is quite slow. To prevent water from pooling on the surface, drippers should be set to apply water at a slow rate. This ensures that water gets to the roots and minimizes water loss. Water should be applied for longer periods to ensure that the plants receive enough water.

In loamy soils, water gets infiltrated into the soil at a slower rate compared to sandy soils but it gets evenly distributed, horizontally and vertically. Mid-ranger drippers and sprinklers can be a good choice for this type of soil.

Why Soil Testing is Important

Soil testing is important when determining the soil type. Regardless of whether you want to irrigate your nurseries, garden, orchard or your lawn, professional soil testing services will be essential to help you know the rate of irrigation and the drip irrigation kit to use.

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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.