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News 
Gerhard Backeberg  
 
2014/03/20 
 
New guidelines ensure irrigation efficiency using drip irrigation systems

Drip irrigation is one of the most efficient methods for water application and production of a range of field, horticultural and industrial crops. However, it is capital intensive and requires high management standards for successful operation at farm level.  With the new Water Research Commission (WRC) user-friendly guidelines in the form of manuals for designers and farmers provide clear support on how to use this technology.

Drip irrigation applies water slowly to the roots of plants, by depositing the water either on the soil surface or directly to the root zone, through a network of pipes and emitters. It is more costly and its management is more challenging than flood and sprinkler irrigations.  Following research from 2000 to 2006, it was highlighted that maintenance is an important management practice to ensure efficient operation and application of water. For this reason the WRC invested in the manual development through technology exchange to support farmers, managers and designers for achieving successful application of drip irrigation.  

According to Dr Backeberg, WRC Director for Water Utilisation in Agriculture correct planning, design, installation, operation and maintenance as well as regular water quality analysis needs to be carried out to identify potential clogging problems.  “It is important that the users understand the emitter type, filter selection and how to develop preventative measures, such as use of root growth inhibitors against root intrusion. Proper maintenance schedules and their implementation are thus of utmost importance for the long-term efficient operation of drip irrigation systems, which requires availability of knowledge through technology transfer.”

The newly developed user-friendly guidelines were specifically compiled to guide designers and farmers on cost estimating procedures, selection, design, operation and maintenance of surface and sub-surface drip irrigation systems, explains Mr Felix Reinders, a General Manager for Operational Programmes at ARC.  “The purpose of these manuals is to provide a comprehensive information and reference document for irrigation designers and farmers operating in South Africa and other SADC countries.  However, it should be read and used in conjunction with the KBase, (a database developed as part of the WRC project by NB Systems) which contains technical information on drippers and filters of the most important manufacturers (e.g. Agriplas, Conns, Netafim SA), and the IRRICOST spreadsheet model, a cost estimating tool that was adapted specifically for the purposes of the WRC project by the University of the Free State”.

Between 2008 and 2012 the WRC and the ARC-IAE jointly facilitated technology transfer sessions in the field of surface and sub-surface drip irrigation with the objectives of encouraging usage of this technology, in accordance with technical and economic principles.  Training and technology exchange sessions were held throughout South Africa to facilitate the process of drip irrigation adoption.  Participants included designers, commercial, large and small scale farmers and managers currently using micro irrigation, as well as farmers and managers who would like to adopt drip irrigation. 

Continuous Professional Development (CPD) courses were also organised to train designers on the technical and economic principles of the selection and usage of surface and subsurface drip irrigation systems.  The manual and Knowledge Base (KBase) were used as training material for these courses. The sessions were organised in collaboration with various branches of the South African Irrigation Institute and the Institute of Agricultural Engineers, and carried out by means of PowerPoint presentations plus video clips of the operation of drippers and filters, as well as practical demonstrations of the maintenance schedules for filters and drippers.

These manuals can be downloaded from the WRC website www.wrc.org.za or requested  from the WRC Publications office on orders@wrc.org.za .They are titled as follows ; Technical Aspects and Cost Estimating Procedures of Surface and Subsurface Drip Irrigation Systems Volume 1: Main Report (WRC Report No. TT 524/12), Technical Aspects and Cost Estimating Procedures of Surface and Subsurface Drip Irrigation Systems Volume 2: A Manual for irrigation designers (WRC Report No. TT 525/12), Technical Aspects and Cost Estimating Procedures of Surface and Subsurface Drip Irrigation Systems Volume 3: A Manual for irrigation farmers (WRC Report No. TT 526/12).

Contact: Gerhard Backeberg, Executive Director, Water Utilisation in Agriculture   082 376 0845,  E-mail gerhardb@wrc.org.za .

 

 

 
     
 
Picture by Lani van Vuuren   
 
Picture by Lani van Vuuren
 
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