Farmers using drip irrigation method to irrigate their crops can save more than 50 per cent of the water and fertilizer compared to other methods such as overhead irrigation.
According to the ministry of agriculture, Kenya’s irrigation-based farming is still limited. Of the total land area under agriculture, 2.9m ha, irrigation accounts for only four per cent but contributes to three per cent of the GDP and provides 18 per cent of the value of all agricultural produce, demonstrating it’s potential in increasing agricultural production and productivity.
In drip irrigation, water drops slowly in the root zone of the plants either onto the soil surface or directly into the root zone through a network of valves, pipes and emitting tubing (drip tape).
Overhead irrigation methods encourage accumulation of moisture in the environment. Moisture creates good microclimate for disease causing germs like fungi to thrive. But drip irrigation limits water supply to the stem base and is absorbed directly to the soil.
Drip irrigation in cabbage farming. Courtesy
At the same time, drip irrigation gives farmers more latitude to control water supply. If there are no plants at given outlets, the farmer can temporarily close those holes with a cello tape, allowing for the water to flow to other areas instead of going to waste.
“Consistent amount and rate of flow of water and any other resources included leads to equal supply of nutrients. For this reason, the crop growth rated and final yield is uniform,” said Wilfred Obwoge, an agronomist at Amiran Kenya.
Initial setting up of the pipes is what may take more labour but later application will be easy, because a farmer will only require turning on the water tank tap on. No movement of sprinklers or watering cans through the farm
Localized release of water also reduces growth of weeds. Crops will also grow faster than weeds because they have sufficient water and nutrients for growth unlike weeds.
Amiran Kenya supplies greenhouses together with the drip irrigation. They also distribute the drip irrigation equipment for open field.
To maintain the drip irrigation system, clean the screen filters every day before using the drip system.
The flush valve is assembled at the end of sub main pipe and is opened weekly to let the water flow till clear water comes out.
Each month, the end caps of every drip tape line should be opened to remove accumulated dirt and particles inside the drip tape.