Monday, February 7, 2011

In the Lab: Drip Irrigation Systems Analysis

The morning of February 3, D-lab students met once again at the UC Davis Student Farm under clear skies to learn about drip irrigation and its role in agricultural development. As a student in D-Lab and practitioner in irrigation, I introduced students to the intricacies of working with drip irrigation. The class compared two different drip systems in order to evaluate the range of quality and effectiveness available in the global market. Students gained a basic understanding of water pressure, flow rate, and the complexities of assembling a drip irrigation system.

The first system we looked at was one manufactured by the company NetaFim. This system is designed for large-scale farm operations and is quite expensive to install. This system ran off of the Davis city water supply and was quite effective. The key advantage of this system is that its emitters are designed to regulate flow and ensure that an even amount of water is distributed throughout the system.

The company Drip Tech manufactured the second system that we looked at. This system is designed for smaller farms in developing countries. It can operate off of a gravity fed water source and is much cheaper to install than the NetaFim system. However, our test demonstrated the advantages that the NetaFim system held over the Drip Tech system. Although the system was not that effective, the 55-gallon drum supplying the system was only half the height of what Drip Tech recommends. Nevertheless, the system did not have a continuous flow rate and had a more unreliable distribution of water.

The differences between the two systems clearly demonstrated the range of drip irrigation available and the important things to consider when selecting a system. Students also gained a good understanding of why drip irrigation is only appropriate in particular situations with specific crops.

Curran Hughes, D-Lab Student

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