To help small-scale farmers cope with extreme impacts of El Niño, researchers from PhilRice are developing a cheaper alternative to drip irrigation system. Irrigation-PhilRice

Drip irrigation system is a method that involves water delivery through a pipe distribution network consisting of a main pipe, sub main, manifold and lateral pipes. The water is emitted through small outlets of drippers or emitters into the soil to be irrigated. However, the system is costly for ordinary farmers and they also encounter problems  when it is used in sub-surface irrigation.

Researchers from PhilRice recommend a capillary-based irrigation that the farmers can easily fabricate and install.

Dr. Ricardo Orge, lead researcher, said the technology is a farmer-friendly system that has a simple do-it-yourself (DIY) design which will significantly reduce farmer expenses on irrigation.

“As a cheaper, cost-efficient alternative to drip irrigation system, our study uses a water distribution system similar to drip irrigation system. However, it is equipped with emitters that make use of the capillary principle to deliver water through a wick,” Orge said.

Under normal field conditions, the water flows from the water source towards the capillary pipes, and through gravity, the water is introduced directly to the crops through the wick. Because it operates at near-atmospheric pressure, the system can be made from cheaper or even recycled materials other than the conventional plastic pipes.

As for the wick, the cotton yarn has the most ideal traits. According to Orge, aside from its uniform water discharge rate (WDR), it is also biodegradable, readily-available, and can last for at least 2 cropping seasons.

Initial results of their study showed that despite changes on ambient air temperature, the WDR of the system was not affected.  Under 36- 37˚ C, the WDR is consistent at 32 ml/hr. Orge also added that the distance between the water level and the tip of the wick also didn’t affect the WDR.

Orge said that further testing will be conducted on the study to harness its full potential.

For more information about the study, call or text the PhilRice Text Center 0920 911 1398.


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Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) is a government corporate entity attached to the Department of Agriculture created through Executive Order 1061 on 5 November 1985 (as amended) to help develop high-yielding and cost-reducing technologies so farmers can produce enough rice for all Filipinos.

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Philippine Rice Research Institute