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DLG International Crop Production Centre conducts trials on undersoil drip irrigation

Project aims to demonstrate the technical and economic possibilities of drip irrigation in selected crops – More efficient water use is central to sustainable farming practice – Rainfall levels at the IPZ make it ideal for irrigation cash crop farming research

FRANKFURT/MAIN, Germany, July 13, 2016 – One of the biggest challenges agriculture faces is increasing production with limited resources, including water. The OECD says that while the world will need to produce almost 50 percent more food by 2030, and double current production by 2050, this will probably have to be achieved with less water, mainly because of pressures from growing urbanization, industrialization and climate change. Consequently, it will be important in future that farmers increase water use efficiency and improve water management, especially as agriculture is the major user of water, accounting for about 70 percent of the world’s freshwater withdrawals.
 
The DLG (German Agricultural Society) International Crop Production Center (IPZ) was established to address the central challenges faced by agriculture, including sustainability, and since 2014 it has been conducting ongoing drip irrigation trials with the aim of understanding the advantages and effects of this type of irrigation on selected row and cover crops. The results from the research will provide farmers with a better understanding of different irrigation methods.
 
The region IPZ is located benefits from good soils, however, water is the limiting factor when it comes to crop yields. “With climate change causing more unpredictability, it is even more important to understand the factors we can control, and this includes irrigation,” the Head of the IPZ, Dr. Klaus Erdle, said. “These trials will help us understand the effects of irrigation on locally adapted cropping systems and how we can preserve water moisture better, and the results could be vital for a future where water resources will need to be allocated efficiently and equitably, and used to achieve socially, environmentally and economically beneficial outcomes.”
 
The IPZ irrigation trial is being conducted using novel equipment from Israeli manufacturer NETAFIM, which is supporting the research. Drip irrigation pipes buried 35 cm beneath the surface and at 1 m spacing are being compared to an above-ground drip irrigation system to see which performs best. The benefits of underground irrigation are said to include the fact that no water is wasted to evaporation, run-off or wind drift. About 1.5 hectares has been allocated to the trial, which has been split into 16 plots with droplet irrigation at depth and a further 8 plots with droplet irrigation from above.
 
The crop rotation being trialed with the buried-pipe system includes oilseed rape, winter wheat, maize and a second winter wheat, which is typical of the rotations used in areas with fertile soils like those at the IPZ site. Sugar beet and maize is being grown in the trial plots with above-ground irrigation. The aim of the experiment is to demonstrate the technical and economic feasibility of underground drip irrigation, and to compare the results with land receiving above-ground drip irrigation, as well as crops grown on parts of the site that are not irrigated.
 
In the initial stages of the trial, the technical implementation of the irrigation systems and the sensor-based controls that manage them will be examined, as well as the yields obtained. In a second step, the combination of irrigation and fertilizer application (fertigation) will be examined. This will mean an extension of the trial so that fertilizer is added to the irrigation water and delivered directly to the crops being grown.
 
The IPZ site is ideal for this particular trial as it sits in the arid zone of central east Germany that only gets an average 511 mm of rain each year. With deep, rich black soil, however, the land has great potential for productivity, so the irrigation should allow it to meet its true potential.
 
NETAFIM says drip irrigation enables farmers to grow more crops with less resource and less impact on the environment, which is the very definition of sustainable productivity. The company adds that previous trials with maize have already registered higher yields of up to 12 to 14 tonnes / hectare, as well as saving as much as 35 to 55 percent of the water used in conventional furrow or sprinkler irrigation. This is in addition to better grain quality, lower labour costs (compared to conventional irrigation) and precise application of fertilizer.
The results of this IPZ trial will reveal the capacity of advanced drip irrigation technology to increase yields, financial returns and sustainability on a site that has already proved to be productive.
 
About the IPZ
The IPZ was established by the DLG in 2010 to carry out research that provides new and practical information for crop farmers. Situated at Bernburg-Strenzfeld, about 65 km north-west of Leipzig, the site is in the rain shadow of the Harz region. It has an annual rainfall of 511 mm and 80-90 cm of good-quality black topsoil. The center supports the DLG’s goal, in place since the organization started in 1885, which is to share practical international agricultural knowledge in order to optimize and improve farming methods.
 
The DLG, which has 27,000 farming members, supports 80 working committees made up of members and companies that are dedicated to specific topics. About 20 of these committees, dealing with subjects such as precision farming, crop nutrition and crop protection, are connected to the work carried out at the IPZ.
 
 
Media contact:
Malene Conlong
Tel.: +49 69 24788237
Email: m.conlong@dlg.org
www.DLG.org
 

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Friedrich W. Rach

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Malene Conlong

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International media and communications manager