Investments into drip irrigation systems, while sizeable, appear to pay off quickly as farmers realise a sharp increase in yields, alongside more efficient water use. Drip irrigation is sometimes called trickle irrigation and involves dripping water onto the soil at very low rates (2-20 litres/hour) from a system of small diameter plastic pipes fitted with outlets called emitters or drippers. Water is applied close to plants so that only part of the soil in which the roots grow is wetted, unlike surface and sprinkler irrigation, which involves wetting the whole soil profile. With drip irrigation water, applications are more frequent (usually every 1-3 days) than with other methods and this provides a very favourable high moisture level in the soil in which plants can flourish.
Precision agriculture (PA) or satellite farming or site specific crop management (SSCM) is a farming management concept based on observing, measuring and responding to inter and intra-field variability in crops.
Precision agriculture aims to optimize field-level management with regard to:
- crop science: by matching farming practices more closely to crop needs (e.g. fertilizer inputs);
- environmental protection: by reducing environmental risks and footprint of farming (e.g. limiting leaching of nitrogen);
- economics: by boosting competitiveness through more efficient practices (e.g. improved management of fertilizer usage and other inputs).
'Precision agriculture' seems to be the way out for the future.
- “Precision agriculture” may be the only way to reduce agrarian water dependency, says the University of Agricultural Sciences-Bengaluru (UAS-B) which has demonstrated that water-intensive sugarcane can be cultivated using 40-50% lesser water through drip irrigation.
- UAS-B will be testing these technologies, including sub-surface irrigation, on the fields of about 400 farmers for four years. Initial results show that yields have gone up by around 40%.
- Though farmers were not keen on water conservation in the beginning, the series of drought and water shortage has seen their interest increase.
Mulching is one of the simplest and most beneficial practices one can use in the garden. Mulch is simply a protective layer of a material that is spread on top of the soil. Mulches can either be organic -- such as grass clippings, straw, bark chips, and similar materials -- or inorganic -- such as stones, brick chips, and plastic. Both organic and inorganic mulches have numerous benefits:
- Helps soil retain moisture in summer
- Suppresses weed
- Improves soil texture
- Deters some pests
- Protects plant roots from extreme temperatures
- Encourages beneficial soil organisms
- Provides a barrier for edible crops coming into contact with soil
Mulching: Costs and constraints
- Given the constraints relating to water availability, farmers in Telangana had to opt for short duration crops such as tomato and chilli whose crop cycle lasts from about 60 to 120 days, depending on the variety transplanted.
- The input cost is close to â‚¹80,000 per acre and a major portion of this is for the purchase of mulching sheets (close to â‚¹16,000 an acre), and labour charges.
- Mulching sheets covering the drip system will ensure that there is no run off or evaporation besides bringing down incidence of pests. The drip put in place ensures that water is just sufficient to the particular variety sown is given.
Andhra Pradesh - Rain guns
- In Anantapur district of Andhra Pradesh, farm ponds are being combined with “rain guns,” which shoot harvested rainfall through a high-pressure jet into the air, and it lands on precious crops as natural rain would.
- The State government opted for this innovation, wiser from the failed implementation of previous programmes under the Desert Development Programme. Those schemes concentrated primarily on creating check-dams to retain water. Today, the focus is on a systematic expansion of farm ponds.
- The idea is that once the farm ponds are filled up by rains, the stored water could be used through rain guns or sprinklers to give protective wettings to the groundnut crop once or twice, during long dry spells, until the next rain spell takes over the task.
Micro irrigation movement underway
- The vast stretches of land in drought-hit Prakasam district are barren, with one exception: the village of Chinnakothapalle, near Addanki, abutting the Hyderabad-Ongole expressway.
- This village is an oasis in the rain shadow region as most of the 300 farmers here have adopted drip irrigation, even though their district was reeling under the impact of severe drought in all the 56 mandals.
- Micro Irrigation (MI) system saved them around 40% of production costs and increased productivity by 20%, by allowing water to drip slowly to the root zone through a network of valves, pipes, and tubes.
- As many as 188 farmers were provided with subsidised MI system to grow crops in about 400 acres. Rest of the eligible farmers will be covered before start of Kharif season.
NTR Jala Siri programme
The department proposes to bring more than 20,000 hectares into the MI system under the flagship NTR Jala Siri programme ('NTR Jala Siri' is the flagship programme of Govt. of Andhra Pradesh with NABARD and MGNREGS with a view to consolidate the gains made in the Land Development Project of the later programme and to ensure sustainable and comprehensive development of the land securing livelihoods. The project aims at providing assured source of irrigation to the 10 lakh acres of fallow and uncultivable land belonging to the 6 lakh SC/ST farmers of the state. This will act as a welfare measure in terms of enhancing the productivity of the lands thus maximizing their incomes.) in 2017-18.