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Evolution and InnovationSave Biodiversity...Rise



Historical Development of Drip Irrigation...

Drip irrigation was developed originally as a sub-irrigation system and this basic idea underlying drip irrigation can be traced back to experiments in Germany in 1860's. The first work in drip irrigation in the U.S.A was a study carried out by House in Colorado in 1913. An important breakthrough was made in Germany way back in 1920 when perforated pipe drip irrigation was introduced.
During the early 1940's Symcha Blass, an engineer from Israel, observed that a big tree near a leaking tap exhibited more vigorous growth than other trees in the area. This led him to the concept of an irrigation system that would apply water in small quantity literally drop by drop. Around 1948, greenhouse operators in the UK began to try a similar method with some modifications. The earliest drip irrigation system consisted of plastic capillary tubes of small diameter (1 mm) attached to 1arge pipes. One of the refinements made by Blass in his original system was coiled emitter. In the early 1960's, experiments in the Israel reported spectacular results when they applied the Blass system in the desert area of the Negev and Arava. 

Drip irrigation pipes began to be sold outside Israel in 1969 on commercial basis. Drip irrigation unit in their current diverse forms were installed widely in U.S.A, Australia, Israel, Mexico and to a lesser extent in Canada, Cyprus, France, Iran, New Zealand, UK, Greece and India.

Globally, fresh water at a tune of 3,240 M km3 is being utilized. Of this, 69% is being used in agriculture sector, 8% in domestic, 23% in industrial and other sector. In India, around 88% water is being used in agriculture sector, covering around 85Mha area under irrigation. Due to liberalization of industrial policies and other developmental activities, the demand for water in industrial and domestic sectors is increasing day by day, which forces to reduce the percentage area under irrigation. The growing demand from the population calls for more efforts to enhance agricultural production.
In India drip irrigation was practised through indigenous methods such as perforated earthenware pipes, perforated bamboo pipes and pitcher/porous cups. In Meghalaya some of the tribal farmers are using bamboo drip irrigation system for betel, pepper and arecanut crops by diverting hill streams in hill slopes. Earthenware pitchers and porous cups have been used for growing vegetable crops in Rajasthan and Haryana. In India drip irrigation was introduced in the early 70's at agricultural universities and other research institutions. The growth of drip irrigation has really gained momentum in the last one decade.
These developments have taken place mainly in areas of acute water scarcity and in commercial/horticultural crops, such as coconut, grapes, banana, fruit trees, sugarcane and plantation crops in the states of Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Gujarat.

Drip irrigation is a method which optimises the use of irrigation water by providing it uniformly and directly to the roots of the plants, through a closed network of plastic pipes and emitters. Nutrients can be dissolved in the water to reach the roots.

Drip irrigation has had a remarkably successful track record in India. Today it irrigates more than 6,00,000 ha. in the country. Adoption of drip irrigation has resulted in high yields in sugarcane, grapes, banana, mango, guava, pomegranate, sapota, okra, cabbage, cauliflower, cotton, coconut, arecanut, and roses in the country.

There are over 50 drip system manufacturers in the county. Industry is likely to grow at a much faster rate in the coming years.


•Saving of water by 30 to 50% as compared to conventional mode of irrigation.

•Yield increase from 50 to 100%.

•Reduction in fertilizer usage - resulting in cost saving.

•Increased pest control management / efficacy.

•Cultivation of undulated land possible.

•Efficient water management of heavy and light soils.

•Weed growth control.

Disadvantages of surface irrigation methods :

 •Loss of water through deep percolation

•Loss of nutrients through leaching beyond root zone

•Ground water pollution through leaching of agrochemicals beyond root zone and surface water pollution through runoff water.

•Salinization/alkalization of soil.

•Plant suffers from water stress due to both water scarcity and water logging.

•Plant nutrient uptake may not be optimum due to unfavourable soil water regime in the root zone.

•Plant is more susceptible to soil borne diseases.

•More Insect pest attack.

•Labour intensive. 

Microirrigation System:

Microirrigation is frequent application of water directly on or below the soil surface near the root zone of plants. It delivers required and measured quantity of water in relatively small amounts slowly to the individual or groups of plants. Water is applied as continuous drops, tiny streams, or fine spray through emitters placed along a low-pressure delivery system. Such system provides water precisely to plant root zones and

maintains ideal moisture conditions for plant growths.

The available literature and the results obtained at Precision Farming Development Centre, IIT Kharagpur and other research centres report that there is 50 to 70% saving in irrigation water and 18 to 152 % increase in yield of fruits and vegetable crops through drip irrigation. 

Types of Microirrigation System :

The basic types of microirrigation system are as follows:

Surface System..

It is the system in which emitters and laterals are laid on the ground surface along the rows of crops. The emitting devices are located in the root zone area of trees. 

Sub-surface System..

It is a system in which water is applied slowly below the land surface through emitters. Such systems are generally preferred in semi permanent/permanent installations. 

Bubbler system..

In this system the water is applied to the soil surface in a small stream or fountain. Bubbler systems do not require elaborate filtration systems. These are suitable in situations where large amount of water need to be applied in a short period of time and suitable for irrigating trees with wide root zones and high water requirements.

Micro and mini Sprinklers.. 

These are small plastic sprinklers with rotating spinners. The spinners rotate with water pressure and sprinkle the water. These are available in different discharges and diameters of coverage and can operate at low pressure in the range of 1.0 to 2kg/cm2. Water is given only to the root zone area as in the case of drip irrigation but not to the entire ground surface as done in the case of sprinkler irrigation method. 


Pulse system uses high discharge rate emitters and consequently has short water application time. The primary advantage of this system is a possible reduction in the clogging problem.


It is extruded dual chamber micro-irrigation tubing manufactured from Linear Low Density Polyethylene (LLDPE). This system is suitable for all closely spaced row crops like sugarcane, cotton, vegetables, onion, tea etc.


Application of Fertilizers and other Agro Chemicals

(Fertigation and Chemigation)

Fertigation is the method of application of soluble fertilizer with irrigation water. Fertigation is a prerequisite for drip irrigation. Since the wetted soil volume is limited, the root system is confined and concentrated. The nutrients from the root zone are depleted quickly and a continuous application of nutrients along with the irrigation water is necessary for adequate plant growth. Fertigation offers precise control on fertilizer application and can be adjusted to the rate of plant nutrient uptake. 

Advantages of Fertigation :

Several distinct advantages of fertigation in comparison with conventional application methods are as follows:

i) The supply of nutrients can be more carefully regulated and monitored.

ii) The nutrients can be distributed more evenly throughout the entire root zone or soil profile.

iii) The nutrients can be supplied incrementally throughout the season to meet the actual nutritional requirements of the crop.

iv) Nutrients can be applied to the soil when crop or soil conditions would otherwise prohibit entry into the field with conventional equipment.

v) Soil compaction is avoided, as heavy equipment never enters the field.

vi) Crop damage by root pruning, breakage of leaves, or bending over is avoided, as it occurs with conventional chemical field application techniques.

vii) Less equipment may be required to apply the chemicals and fertilizers. 

viii) Less energy is required in applying the chemical. Usually less labor is needed to supervise the application. 


The system controls the supply of water to the plants by a network of tubes with water under pressure.


  • The Head unit consists of a pump or over head tank.
  • Mainline 50 mm, 63 mm and 75 mm HDPE or PVC pipes are used
  • Submain 45 mm, 50 mm HDPE pipes are used.
  • Laterals 12 mm and 16 mm LLDPE pipes are used.
  • Drippers - pressure compensating type 2 lph, 4 lph, 8 lph are more suitable
  • Filter unit : Sand filter for coarse particle detention. Mesh filter (120 micron) for fine particle detention.
  • Fertiliser unit: A fertiliser tank with ventury setup is used for applying liquid or dissolved fertilisers. Pressure gauges 0.5 to 2.5 Ksc and gate valve depending on pipe size are also essential for the system to control and monitor the flow.


  • 50 to 65% water saving compared to control method.
  • Crop attains early maturity.
  • Crop quality and yield increased.
  • Requires least land levelling.
  • Poor quality water can be used.

Advantages of drip irrigation system (after sailent features)

  • High quality and increased fruit size
  • Suitable for all types of soil
  • Easy method of fertigation and chemigation
  • Saving in labour and field preparation cost

Disadvantage of drip irrigation system

  • High initial investment
  • Clogging of emitters
  • Possible damage of system components due to animals, etc.,

Investment cost mostly differs based on spacing of the crops

  • Generally, the reasons for clogging are solid particles (sand, rust), soft dirt (organic matter, algae, micro organism, salt), sediments (salt in the fertilizers).
  • Filtration is the main key factor to the success or failure of the system. The main of filtration is to stop dirt particles which damage any components of the system.
  • To remove salt encrustation, 30 per cent commercial hydrochloric acid can been used at the rate of one liter per one m3 area. (One part HCl mixed with 5 parts of water)
  • To remove algae and fungal clogging 5 to 500 ppm sodium hydrochloride (10 per cent chlorine) can be used.

Maintenance of drip system

  • Back washing and sand filters has to be cleaned
  • Frequent cleaning of emitters and drippers
  • Flushing at every irrigation
  • Cleaning of sub main and main pipes
  • Cleaning of PVC pipes and laterals and acid or chlorine may be used to remove clogging.


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