Drip irrigation is unarguable one of the most important technologies used for precision farming. With drip irrigation, farmers have been able to conserve water and yet increased their crop yield.
The advent of drip irrigation in Nigeria has been greeted with happiness and hope. Farmers who had hitherto cultivated their crops only in the rainy season can now grow crops in the dry season.
Most maize farmers in Nigeria depend on rains for the cultivation of their crops. Some large scale maize farmers use sprinklers like pivot irrigation systems to irrigate their maize crop. Recently, some smart maize farmers are now using drip irrigation systems.
What is drip irrigation?
Drip irrigation is a type of micro-irrigation that wets the root zone of plants in a trickle manner. Drip irrigation tubes or tapes pass water to the rots of plants in droplets; this ensures that the plants make optimal use of the water.
Drip irrigation conserves water as the volume of water passed to the root zone of plants is optimally used by the plants.
Drip irrigation enables Fertigation and Chemigation. Fertigation is the passing of fertilizer solutions to the root zones of plants through irrigation pipes or lines. Chemigation is the passing of soluble chemicals like pesticides to the rot zones of plants through irrigation lines or hoses.
Unlike flood irrigation and sprinkler irrigation, drip irrigation conserves up to 80% of water in some instances. With drip irrigation, a farmer can use far lesser volume of water to irrigate its crops unlike other forms of irrigation.
What is Maize Farming?
Maize farming is the cultivation of maize for the purpose of consumption or processing into other products.
Maize farming involves the planting of seeds, application of fertilizers, application of pesticides, weeding and the eventual harvesting of the maize cobs. The harvested maize can be further processed into other products like maize grits, starch and animal feed etc.
Most of the maize farmers in Nigeria cultivate their crops during the rainy season months of March to October. A lot of the maize farming activities in Nigeria is done in the northern part of Nigeria.
Will Drip Irrigation be Beneficial for Maize Farming?
Drip irrigation has been beneficial to maize farming. In Nigeria, there are some maize farmers who have increased their maize crop yield by over 100% because they used drip irrigation.
In our survey, we met a maize farmer called Tayo (not real name). Tayo has a 10 hectare maize farm in Oyo State. He has always practiced rain fed maize farming.
Over the past 6 years, he hardly gets 3 tonnes per hectare of maize. He was advised to use drip irrigation last year by our team.
He installed drip irrigation system on his 10 hectare maize farm in Oyo State. He was able to get an average yield of 7 tonnes per hectare. In some of his farms, he got 9.1 tonnes of maize per hectare.
Tayo can also grow maize all year round. He told us that he can now grow maize three times a year. In the past, he could only grow maize once a year.
With drip irrigation, maize farmers can pass soluble fertilizers to their crops. This will eliminate the need for labour for the application of fertilizers through top dressing and side dressing.
For farms with problems of nematodes and soil borne pests, drip irrigation can be used to pass chemicals and pesticides to the root zones of the maize plants.
Maize farmers will benefit a great deal from drip irrigation.