IIHR develops new water-conserving irrigation method


The new one, a hybrid version of two hydroponics models, requires only a tenth of water used in drip irrigation

Scientists at the Hesaraghatta-based Indian Institute of Horticultural Research (IIHR) have developed a new irrigation method, which conserves even more water than drip irrigation.

The new method, developed on a small experimental plot at the institute, uses only one-tenth of the water used in drip irrigation, according to C. Aswath, principal scientist and head of IIHR’s Division of Floriculture and Medicinal Plants.

Dr. Aswath, who developed the model on display at the IIHRโ€™s National Horticulture Fair that began on Monday, told The Hindu that the institute would further test the model on a bigger plot.

โ€œThe new model is a hybrid (combined) version of two different hydroponics methods of nutrient film technology (NFT) and wick system,โ€ he explained.

In this model, water is circulated through a pipe that is laid underground. This pipe will have holes through which wicks are inserted. They will suck water that flows through the pipe and dampen the roots of plants.

The water which is pumped through the pipe is collected at the end and recirculated. Dr. Aswath said water is made to circulate to ensure availability of more dissolved oxygen to help the growth of plants.

โ€œThe main disadvantage of drip irrigation is that it supplies water above the ground. But when the water percolates into the ground, it clogs the air pores present in the soil. These air pores that have oxygen pockets are crucial for plant breathing. The new hybrid version does not clog the air pores as it works on capillary force,โ€ he says. The nutrients and fertilizers are supplied to plants through the pipe, he pointed out.

According to him, the new system may turn out to be a game changer if it turns out to be successful on large tracts and it can boost farming in dry areas. It can be adopted only for cultivation of horticultural crops like fruits and vegetables as well as greens, he notes. He wants to take up another experiment to know whether the hybrid model helps in purifying chloride water from deep borewells.

The wick system has been developed in both vertical and horizontal mode for terrace gardening in urban areas. This, he says, would encourage urbanites to pursue terrace gardening as a hobby. He has grown greens using the vertical model and vegetable crops with the horizontal model, which are on display at the ongoing fair that will go on till February 12 at the IIHR campus.

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