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Sunday, September 7, 2014

Climate Change: Drip Irrigation and Mulching


With every passing day, global warming and the ensuing climate change are resulting in erratic weather patterns. Less rainfall, drought, flooding, and other unprecedented changes have all taken a toll on those actively involved in agriculture.
Needless to say, food is a universal need that demands perpetual supply. In the wake of the aforementioned unfortunate happenings, food security would be seriously threatened unless appropriate remedial measures are put in place.

This is where trickle irrigation and mulching comes in.

Drip/Trickle Irrigation

Drip irrigation is a most efficient method of watering crops. This is done through narrow tubes that deliver water directly to the base of the plant.
Compared with sprinkler/overhead irrigation whose efficiency is about 75%, drip irrigation has an efficiency exceeding 90%. This simply means that less water is wasted.
It is also referred to as micro or localized irrigation.

A key reason is that water is applied where it's needed most - at or very near to the plant's roots. It is also both easy and cheap to design and install.
Drip irrigation's high efficiency is due to two main factors:
  1. water soaks into the soil before it can evaporate or run off.
  2. the water is applied only where it's needed, as mentioned above.
In addition, using drip irrigation reduces chances of diseases that are associated with very high levels of moisture in some plants, which occur especially with overhead irrigation.

Mulching


A mulch is a layer of material that is applied to the surface of an area of soil, for several reasons. Key among these is to conserve moisture, improve soil fertility, reduce the growth of weeds or simply enhance the an area's aesthetics.

Most mulching is done using organic material. With time, and thanks to organic activity, the mulch material gets incorporated into the soil. Ultimately, this enriches and protects the soil, resulting in a better growing environment.

Mulching presents many benefits, some of which are:
  • protecting the soil from erosion
  • maintaining an even soil temperature
  • conserving moisture
  • preventing weed growth
  • reducing compaction following heavy rains

Mulches should be applied at varying times for different crops.
Drip irrigation used in concert with mulching ensures maximum watering efficiency with minimum water loss due to evaporation or surface run-off.

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