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What are the advantages and disadvantages of drip irrigation?

Drip irrigation also known as trickle irrigation, micro irrigation or localized irrigation. Drip irrigation refers to the process of dripping water onto the soil surfaces usually at very low rates of 2 to 20 liters per hour through a system of plastic pipes with small diameters. Furthermore, these pipes come fitted with outlets which are referred to as drippers or emitters. The application of water is done close to the plant, and usually, the region near the plant is the only part where the roots close by are wetted. Therefore, it differs from sprinkler and surface irrigation which typically encompasses getting the entire soil profile wet.

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Moreover, when it comes to finding a drip irrigation system, water application is done more often, generally after every 1 to 3 days unlike other methods, hence offers the plant a favorable high moisture level in the soil. So long the water application rate does not exceed the soil infiltration capacity, the ground remains unsaturated thereby no free water runs over the surface, or no free water stands.

Nations around the globe which have greatly embraced drip irrigation include USA, India, Spain, Italy, China, Brazil, Russia, South Africa, Saudi Arabia, and Mexico, with these countries sharing amongst themselves 77 percent of the total drip-irrigated surfaces around the globe. Additionally, in countries like the United Kingdom, Slovakia Republic, Israel, Libya and Austria, this type of irrigation is exclusively achieved through pressurized systems.

The critical components required for successfully carrying out drip irrigation include control head, pump unit, lateral lines, mainlines and sub-mainlines as well as drippers or emitters. Extra features the system may have include fertigation devices, filters, and reservoir tanks.

See also: How Much Pressure Should A Drip System Have?

Having now understood what drip irrigation all is about, below are the advantages and disadvantages associated with this type of irrigation.

Advantages of Drip Irrigation

Conserves Water

The ability of the drip irrigation system to resourcefully water plants through a network of controlled piping which delivers water directly to the soil surface close to the plant is a trademark of drip irrigation. Through the tubes, water travels from its source to the drip emitters, also known as micro sprinklers, with this being what makes up a drip irrigation system.

The application of water uniformly across the landscape when using drip irrigation systems achieves high levels of water efficiency by applying water only where it is needed. Subsequently, there is less evaporation and runoff from both the soil and leaves. According to research, drip irrigation in comparison to other conventional methods of watering, for instance, sprinklers, make use of 30 to 50 percent less water. Likewise, according to research done by the University of Rhode Island, drip irrigation is more than 90 percent more effective at letting plants makes use of the water applied.

Easy to Install

During the installation of micro irrigation systems, rarely does the landscape necessitate excavation and destruction of the land bed’s integrity. Furthermore, all the area that requires watering, the tubing is placed thereby ensuring all the plants get an adequate supply of water for maximum growth.

See also: How deep should drip irrigation lines be buried?

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Encourages Healthier Growth

When using the drip irrigation system to water your plants, one of the most crucial aspects that make you opt for this type of irrigation is due to the creation of a wholly new and more favorable root zone environment. Moreover, drip irrigation guarantees the maintenance of a constant soil moisture level. Consequently, this element has essential consequences since it bears upon the question of disease control, plant water requirements, and tolerance. Since drip irrigation entails watering only the base of the plant’s roots, the emergence of fungal infections and water-borne pests which spread through the movement of water is tremendously minimized. Also, the sprouting of weeds in the regions between the plants is avoided too. Since the water application is done often and in small amounts around the locations where the plants require, usually at the roots, drought stress is sidestepped, and lush growth is stimulated. It is because the drip systems carry out the application of water at the plant’s roots, and the remaining part of the plant and soil remains dry, thereby inhibiting the development of unwanted pathogens, pests, and weeds.

There is No Drift

Normally, drip irrigation can distribute to a landscape one to four gallons of water per hour, and there exists no drift. Drift is what usually happens when the wind carries water being spread from an irrigation system to regions which do not need the water, for instance, walkways, sidewalks and parking lots — consequently, the drift results to a lot of water wastage.

Does not cause runoff of fertilizer into groundwater

Unlike other water spraying techniques such as sprinkling, drip irrigation delivers water directly to the ground’s surface instead of being sprayed up and out over the entire location. Thus, it does not result in the runoff of fertilizers, pesticides, and manure or the leakage of nitrogen into the groundwater.

Consequently, with drip irrigation, nutrients and fertilizers are used to great efficiency by the plant since the application of water locally minimizes the extent of leaching which causes loss of vital nutrients needed by the plant.

Water Bill Savings

Since drip irrigation efficiently utilizes the amount of water needed to adequately water plants, it results to a significant saving on the expense you would have incurred if using less effective watering methods. Therefore, in an aim to improve your profit margin when carrying out agribusiness, drip irrigation is the best watering method to choose.

Reduced Risk of Soil Erosion

With drip irrigation, soil conditions are considerably taken into consideration. It is because unlike other irrigation practices, drip irrigation does not expose a lot of the soil surface to water and only portions close to plants. Subsequently, the amount of soil erosion is minimized since less soil surface gets exposure to water, and mainly so running water which causes widespread soil erosion.

Maximizes Crop Yield

All the plants get suitable amounts of water due to drip irrigation close to their roots, and this consequently results in increased water intake by the plant, hence encouraging better growth. Moreover, when using drip irrigation, the loss of vital nutrients and fertilizers through leaching is significantly reduced thus ensuring the crop gets access to all the nutrients it requires to grow successfully. Weeds minimize crop yields, however, by using drip irrigation, weeds do not get access to water thereby die off which consequently causes an increase in the crop yield produce due to reduced competition for soil nutrients and water.

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Applicable to Diverse Landscapes

Unlike other water distributing methods, drip irrigation does not require general leveling of the land and bunding and is perfect for all the landscapes.

Low Operational Costs

When using drip irrigation, less labor requirement is needed as well as less energy costs. It is so since the operation of drip irrigation does not require high-pressure levels in comparison to other irrigation methods thereby proving its cost-effectiveness as an irrigation method.

Disadvantages of Drip Irrigation

High Initial Set Up Cost

All the materials required to set up the drip irrigation system include tubes, filters, lines, and timers. Furthermore, the labor cost incurred when installing these materials, especially if you have a large planting surface, can be considerable since it is something that needs a lot of time and labor to set up the system successfully.

High Maintenance Cost

The maintenance of a drip irrigation system is typically a great hindrance to the successful operation of this system. It is particularly so since drip irrigation relies on very clean water to distribute the water to the intended crops, and the presence of any minute mud particles might stick in the tube and emitters. Subsequently, the soil around the emitters gets to the water supply which deters plant growth. Therefore, if you are planning to use drip irrigation, the installation of filters is crucial as well as changing them frequently.

Suitable for Beds

Drip irrigation is not ideal for lawns, but is an excellent option for beds, hence making the application of drip irrigation very limited across different types of planting landscapes. For the lawn area, conventional irrigation techniques are best to scatter water throughout the land.

Drip Horses Get Damaged from UV rays and movement.

To increase the durability of the drip hoses which generally are expensive, these hoses need to be covered with a mulch hence preventing damage to the plastic due to UV rays. However, most farmers do not have access to enough amount of mulch to cover the entire pipe; subsequently the plastic gets damaged with time.

Furthermore, if you practice crop rotation, the hoses need to be moved annually and this constant movement with time results in damage to the plastic hose pipes.


System maintenance requires to be done thoroughly; otherwise, you may begin noticing certain parts of your landscape showing signs of distress. It may vary due to portions of your system starting to leak, clog or damaged consequently resulting in a rapid decline in the crop yield due to lack of adequate water supply.

Soil Salinity Hazards

In case the water being used in drip irrigation is salty, it results in the accumulation of salt which upon high concentration negatively affects the crop yield.

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