The most efficient way to irrigate your crops
Drip irrigation is regarded as the most efficient and economical way to water crops. Drip irrigation in Kenya is becoming popular as the main method of irrigation because of many benefits it offers. Unlike overhead irrigation such as sprinklers and rain hose irrigation systems that are only 65-75% efficient, drip irrigation is 95% efficient because it allows plants to use all the water applied. It also reduces water wastage through runoff and evaporation allowing a good proportion of water applied to be used. This method of irrigation applies the water slowly at the plant root zone where it is actually required. Trickle irrigation can be used to irrigate crops such as vegetables, maize, sugar cane, fruit trees, lawns and gardens etc.
Advantages of Drip Irrigation
- Highly efficient in water use
- As water is applied locally and leaching is reduced, fertilizer/nutrient loss is minimized.
- Reduced weeds
- Maximum crop yields because water application is uniform and regular.
- Fertilizers can be used with high efficiency.
- Minimum operating cost. This is because there are very few operators. A 20acre farm only needs one person to operate the system.
- No soil erosion. This is because water drips directly to the root zone.
- Soil infiltration capacity is increased.
- Fertilizers and ground water is not mixed.
- Seed germination is improved.
- Recycled water can be used safely without any harm
- Irregular shaped lands can be irrigated easily.
- Drip irrigation reduces fertilizer wastage by 70% especially if a venturi fertigation system is used.
- Reduced water pumping cost because they work well under low pressure and gravity.
Disadvantages of drip irrigation
- Clogging of drip lines if not properly maintained through installation of filters
- High cost of installation
- Too much salinity can cause clogging of the system
Types of Drip Irrigation in Kenya
- Button drip irrigation for fruit. Ideal for fruits such as avocados, mangoes, bananas and other widely spaced plants. It uses online drippers to supply water.
- Vegetable drip irrigation for onions, tomatoes and other vegetables that use drip tapes.
Drip Irrigation Components
This is the pipe that runs from the water source to the farm. Depending on the farm size, the main pipe can be of any size from 40mm to as large as 110mm. The main pipe can be hdpe pipe or pvc pipe.
Sub main line
They supply water to the drip lines from the main pipe. Sub main line sizes range from 25mm to 63mm. Sub main lines are used when we have multiple divisions in the farm.
control valves control water flow into the system and can be set for either automatic or manual control
Backflow preventers are necessary to ensure that irrigation water doesn’t flow back into the pipes and contaminate your main water source
It allows you to monitor the pressure rating of water in your drip irrigation pipes
Filters keep dissolved substances in your water from clogging the emitters over time. Install filters either at the emitters or at the water source to protect both the valve and pressure regulator in addition to the emitters. It is best if the filter has at least a 150 mesh screen or higher. You can either use screen filters or disc filters
Main line adaptors and fittings.
You can either use PVC or HDPE fittings. HDPE fittings include female and male adaptors, PE elbows, PE Endcaps etc. PVC fittings include valve sockets, pvc elbows, sockets etc. The fittings are available from 20mm to 110mm.
Drip lines are small thin walled pipes with tiny perforations called emitters. Driplines are the main pipes for drip irrigation and they allow water and nutrients to go straight to the targeted area, that is the root zone. They are available in various spacing of 15cm, 20cm and 30cm. The choice of drip line spacing will depend on the crop being planted. Drip irrigation installations for onions and garlic use 15cm while tomato drip installations use 20cm and 30cm drip tapes.
The drip lines also have various flow rates depending on water availability. The most common flow rates are 1.2L/Hr, 1.5L/Hr, 2.0L/Hr and 2.5L/Hr. They can also be single or double emitters. Grekkon drip, a brand from Grekkon Limited is regarded as the best drip tape in Kenya
Qualities of good drip lines
- Should be UV treated to last long. UV treated drip lines have a lifespan of 5 years if they will not be clogged.
- They should be manufactured from virgin materials to last long.
- Good drip lines need to be flexible.
Drip Irrigation operation and maintenance
Drip irrigation can be set to run automatically, like sprinklers, or controlled manually. Manual operation allows you to take advantage of rainfall before applying unnecessary water.
Because small amounts of water are applied slowly, drip irrigation is designed to run daily unless it rains. During the rainy season, harvest and store the water for later use. You can do this on reservoirs with dam liners.
How long to run the drip irrigation system will depend on how much water plants require per day and the emitters’ flow rate. Water is applied either once or twice a day. Early morning is the best time to water because there will be less evaporation. Watering in the evening increases plant disease.
Check filters and emitters on a regular basis to ensure they are functioning properly and not clogged. During periods of heavy rain fall, you can remove and store the drip lines because they will not be in use. As the rainy season subsides, re install the drip lines again. Incase your drip system is clogged, you can unclog them by soaking the drip tapes in acids such as nitric acid or phosphoric acid then flush the system. Alternatively, you can use acidifying fertilizers in the market
Best Drip irrigation company in Kenya
in 2019 annual irrigation awards by Farm Kenya, Grekkon Limited was voted as the best drip irrigation supplier in Kenya, a fete that has been maintained to date. Our provide both open field and greenhouse drip kits We provide specific design, installation, operation, and maintenance tailor made for each crop and farm. Our technicians and engineers are always ready and available to guide you through.