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Irrigation Management

Irrigation Management

For the normal growth and yield of any crop, it has to be provided with optimum soil moisture conditions throughout its growing period. It is more so in a crop like sugarcane where the end product is cane yield (cane weight) which comprises about 70 per cent water. Both physiologically and in composition, water is the major constituent of cane. It has been worked out that to produce one tonne of cane, 200 to 250 tonnes of water is required.

The optimum soil moisture condition is that in which the water content of root zone soil is neither excess nor deficit. In other words, it is a condition wherein the water content of the root zone soil is in the available range, close to the field capacity. When such a condition is provided to the crop it does not undergo any stress and paves the way for the normal functioning of the physiological processes, which results in the normal growth and yield of the crop.

Sugarcane is a crop of about one year duration. Hence whatever may be the time of planting, it has to pass through all the seasons of the year. If we consider the different seasons and months of the year, generally the availability of irrigation water dwindles and moisture deficit occurs during the period from March to June in most sugarcane growing areas in the tropical India. Also, the evaporation demand of the climate and the water requirement of the crop are more during this period. Under these circumstances, ways to use the available irrigation water efficiently and the moisture conservation practices that could be adopted to mitigate the effect of drought are given below.

Water requirement

Assessment of water requirement

Depending on the yield level of the crop and the climatic conditions prevailing in different parts of the country, the water requirements vary considerably from 1200 to 3000 mm. In places where the evaporation demand of the climate is low, the water requirement is also low. At any given climatic condition, the water requirement is high for a crop of high yield and it is low for a crop of low yield.

Efficient water management involves the collection and storage of the rain water and its rational use throughout the year. The total availability of water in a region per annum has to be considered. Crop planning has to be done to match the water availability. For example, a farm may be getting water through rainfall, from canals and from wells. Rainfall will be received only during certain months, canal irrigation may also be available only during certain specified period and the availability of water from open wells will be fluctuating very much. Therefore the availability of water particularly at the farm level is not uniform throughout the year. First an estimate of the water availability during different months of the year has to be made and crop planning should be done to match the water availability. The period of least water availability should be identified and the area that could be commanded with that water should be estimated. The area of a crop like sugarcane in a farm should be limited to that area. In the rest of the area, other crops of shorter duration could be grown in periods of favourable water supply. In periods of less water availability, a part of the land in the farm will remain as fallow.

Water conservation

Conservation of irrigation water

Even during periods of surplus irrigation water availability, flood irrigation has to be avoided and only controlled irrigation should be practiced so that surplus water could be conserved for use during deficit period.

Furrow irrigation is the best method available to the farmer that is easy to adopt and wastage of the water can be minimised. Planting cane in long furrows and adoption of surge irrigation would be advantageous. Transporting of water from the source to the field head should be done as far as possible only through pipelines.

At times of water scarcity, alternate furrow irrigation may be adopted. When water availability becomes favourable the farmer can switch back to normal furrow irrigation.

In heavy soils, during germination phase, sprinkler irrigation would be advantageous to give light irrigation and to obtain better germination of the crop.

Drip irrigation has the advantage of distributing the available quantity of irrigation water, however little it may be, to the entire crop area of a farm. The high cost of the system limits its adoption.

In areas where drought is a common feature in the formative phase, soaking of the seed material in saturated lime-water can be followed. Planting should be done adopting row spacing of 60 cm. Duel row planting in 30 cm deep and 75 cm wide trenches spaced at 120 cm and irrigation in trenches will help in minimizing irrigation water requirement and mitigating the drought. During the drought period, solution containing 2.5% urea and 2.5% potash can be sprayed on leaves combining with irrigation. Trash mulching can also be done wherever possible.

Soil Moisture Conservation

Soil Moisture Conservation for Sugarcane Agriculture

Water saving technology using the conservation measures like composted coir pith and trash choppings application had saved 25 % irrigation water. Spot application of Composted coir pith@10t/ha and Trash 5 t/ha saved 25% of irrigation water in cane production. After opening the furrow the composted coir pith was applied in the furrow @ 10t/ha or 5 t trash chopping covered with soil and basal dose of P was applied.

Composted coir pith

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