What is drip irrigation?

Drip irrigation is the most efficient water and nutrient delivery system for crop irrigation. It delivers water and nutrients directly to the plant’s root-zone, in the right amounts, at the right time. This ensures that each plant gets exactly what it needs, when it needs it, for optimal growth. Thanks to this method of  irrigation, farmers can produce higher yields while saving water, fertiliser, energy and even crop protection products.

How does it work?

Water and nutrients are delivered across the field in pipes called driplines featuring emitters known as drippers. Each dripper emits drops containing water and fertilisers, resulting in the uniform application of water and nutrients directly to each plant's root-zone, uniformly across an entire field.

Driplines are installed either on-surface or subsurface. Drippers are spaced along the drippline at a certain spacing. This spacing is determined by the requirements of the crop, plant spacing, and the width and depth-wetting ratio determined by the soil’s physical traits. The dripper is selected with a specific flow rate suited to the crop and conditions. 

The concept of drip irrigation was introduced to the global irrigation industry in the 1960s, and ever since massive strides have been made in drip technology. Today, drippers are designed to overcome challenges such sloping fields, challenging water quality, root intrusion and more.

 

Drip irrigation technology

Why do farmers prefer it?

The reason is simple. It does not only deliver greater return on investment than other irrigation methods, it also gives farmers an efficient and simple way to operate their farms and results in:

  • Higher yields of consistent quality. 
  • Massive water savings: no evaporation, no run-off, no waste.
  • 100% land utilisation: drip irrigates uniformly on any topography and soil type.
  • Energy savings: drip irrigation works on low pressure.
  • Efficient use of fertiliser and crop protection with no leaching.
  • Less dependency on weather conditions which leads to greater stability and lower risk.
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Netafim Drip Irrigation for Corn in USA: Dan Luepkes's story

Why do plants prefer it?

Just like people, plants like to get 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. Which is why drip irrigation applies water and nutrients frequently and in small doses, ensuring optimal growing conditions that help produce the highest yields possible.  

Here’s why plants are more productive with drip irrigation:

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

Why does Africa need it

Because as the world population continues to rise, countries in Sub-Saharan Africa that rely heavily on agriculture will have less food security and poorer nutrition. Include increasing water scarcity, and it’s clear why we need a way to increase agricultural productivity and resource efficiency. That’s where Netafim Africa and drip irrigation fit in, changing the economics of global agriculture by allowing farmers to produce more calories per hectare and cubic meter of water.

  • Reduce impact of drought and climate change on food production
  • Avoid contamination of groundwater and rivers caused by fertilizer leaching
  • Support rural communities, reduce poverty, reduce migration to cities
See how drip irrigation is the key to sustainable agriculture
Cornfield in africa - drip irrigation

FAQs

  • Which crops are suitable for drip irrigation?

    Any crop can be grown using drip irrigation. From field crops such as corn soybean or sugarcane, to vegetables and tree crops. Either growing in soil or in a soilless media. On a flat field or on sloping terrain – drip irrigation fits all topographies. The only decision is choosing the right drip configuration based on your crop and field conditions.  

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  • How efficient is drip irrigation?

    Drip irrigation is known to be the most efficient irrigation methods with 95-100% water use efficiency. This is compared to sprinkler systems that have 80-85% water use efficiency or flood and furrow that are 60-70% efficient. Efficiency is related to the effectiveness of the system on crop performance and eventually on yield and profitability of the farmer.

  • Is drip irrigation expensive?

    Farmers looking to invest in a drip irrigation system should calculate ROI versus alternative irrigation methods. Because drip irrigation delivers significant increases in crop yields while saving on inputs (water, fertilizer, energy and labor), it can pay for itself in a relatively short period of time and give farmers more profit in their pocket.

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