The growing impact of the drought has compelled many producers to make massive adjustments in the way they farm. As a result, a number of maize farmers approached Netafim South Africa to enquire about alternative irrigation systems which would allow them to be more efficient in utilising the water available to them, without compensating on yield.
According to Michael Esmeraldo, Regional Manager: Sales & Agronomy at Netafim South Africa, the increased focus on better water management has encouraged them to increase their involvement in the maize production sector. “We believe there is massive potential for drip irrigation in maize production. The fact that you can save on water and fertiliser while at the same time achieving high yields, makes it an attractive system for farmers.
“Farmers in the US, Europe and South America have been using drip irrigation on maize for more than ten years. In South Africa we are busy with about 50ha of trials at different locations. We are in the second season of trials and we will be releasing the results after the third season. So far the results look very promising.”
A precision management tool
Drip irrigation is a management tool that allows producers to apply precise amounts of water and nutrients directly to the root zone. When used as a field management tool, drip irrigation provides growers with precision control over the root-zone environment of their maize crop during the plant’s critical growth stages. This allows growers to maintain optimal uniform soil moisture levels with outstanding aeration, while delivering precision quantities of nutrients and water directly to each plant’s root zone.
Advantages of drip irrigation in maize production include higher yields, lower water and energy usage, as well as more targeted fertiliser use through Fertigation™. “The method used to deliver the water determines how it is distributed throughout the soil. In the case of drip irrigation, the water is distributed by the soil rather than the irrigation system itself. This allows for water savings and numerous other benefits.”
Proper design and management
Esmeraldo emphasises that the success of drip irrigation systems relies on proper irrigation design and layout as well as good irrigation management. “It is very important that design and layout is performed by an SABI (South African irrigation Institute) accredited irrigation system designer.
“There are numerous options when it comes to the choice of a drip irrigation system and all relevant factors must be taken into account. You have to consider soil type, climate, water quality and much more.”
Producers must never forget that water savings and savings on other inputs depend on proper planning, suitable installation, correct management and accurate scheduling.
To encourage the adoption of drip irrigation, Netafim South Africa is involved in a number of events in the maize industry. “We will be at the Landbouweekblad Herlewingsfees in Reitz and Ottosdal, at Nampo 2019 as well as the No-Till Club 2019 Conference.”
“Netafim South Africa invites farmers and other role-players to contact us if you wish us to become involved in other information days, study groups and the like. – Marike Brits, AgriOrbit.