24-27 November 2021 | Anfaş Expo Center - Antalya / Turkey

The Importance of Pressured Irrigation Systems

Irrigation is the process of giving controlled amounts of water to plants via artificial means when the natural rainfall is not enough to meet the water demand.

However, irrigation is more than just a simple practice in a crop field. It is a far more comprehensive system with technical, economic, sociological and legal aspects, and also involves the stages of water storage, transportation of water to plots, and in-field management, all of which require robust coordination.

Nuri GÖKTEPE

Secretary General of Pressured Irrigation Industrialists’ Association (BASUSAD)

Turkey’s land distribution is as follows:

  • Arable land: 24.0 million ha
  • Economically irrigable land: 8.5 million ha 
  • Total irrigated land as of 2020: 6.7 million ha

70% of the total irrigated land uses the “wild-flooding” method, while 30% uses “Pressured Irrigation Systems.”

In “wild flooding”, water is pooled above the soil, which often results in delivering twice the amount that is needed for the crops. This method also makes the crops more vulnerable to diseases, and results in deterioration of the soil structure, in addition to remarkably higher costs of electricity and water.

The “Pressured Irrigation Systems”, which include various systems such as drip-irrigation, sprinkler irrigation, center pivot irrigation and drum irrigation, give water to the root zone of the plants at the right amount and at the right time. These systems also make the fertilizing process more efficient and cost-effective, and help save water by 50% and electricity by 20-25%.

In 2020, Turkey used 57 billion m3 of water. The distribution of water consumption is as follows:

  • Agricultural Irrigation: 44 billion m3 (77%)
  • Wild-Flooding: 36 billion m3 (82%)
  • Pressured Irrigation: 8 billion m3 (18%)
  • Industrial and Drinking Water: 13 billion m3 (23%)

72% of the water used in irrigation is transported from dams, pools and other water reserves to the fields via open channels and ducts. During this process, up to 60% of the water can be lost due to vaporization or leakage.

Experts stress that pressured irrigation system, in addition to prevention of leakages, may help save approximately 38 billion m3 of water per year.

Despite all of the above, and at a time when “saving water” is more important than ever, why the pressured irrigation technology, which has been used for almost 50 years, is not as popular as it should be? What kind of actions are needed?

First of all, we must remember that Agricultural Production (including livestock breeding) is a system as a whole. Irrigation, like other components, is merely one of the many parts of this system. A part of the system cannot function properly unless all components work in harmony. In this framework, the following actions are needed to mainstream Pressured Irrigation Systems across Turkey.

  • Decision-makers should adopt the principle of “eco-friendly agriculture with less resources”, and all policies should be based on this principle.
  • Irrigation should be considered as a strategic sector.
  • Management of irrigation practices should be restructured in accordance with changing circumstances.
  • There should be strong coordination between stakeholders in different sectors as well as within the mechanism which will oversee irrigation practices.
  • The water transportation systems from reservoirs to field plots should be immediately upgraded for Pressured Irrigation Systems. Authorities should encourage using systems which allow installing pressured irrigation technologies on existing channels and ducts.
  • Farmers should be trained on pressured irrigation systems, eco-friendly cultivation techniques, latest agricultural technologies, financial literacy, business management, cooperative systems, etc.
  • Bulk irrigation systems should be subsidized, particularly for smaller plots as it will ensure more efficient, controlled and economic irrigation. Bulk Irrigation Systems allow us to deliver water automatically at planned times and in planned amounts according to the water demand of a crop.
  • Wild-flooding should be immediately restricted, and even prohibited in areas where the infrastructure is suitable for more efficient systems. Otherwise, farmers will not be willing to stop wild-flooding their farms because it does not require any investment.
  • The government should offer 75% grant to farmers who start using Bulk Irrigation Systems, so that they can install Pressured Irrigation Systems.
  • Farmers should be offered loans and other kinds of support to access Pressured Irrigation Systems, and the relevant procedures should be streamlined.
  • The government should offer one-time amnesty to owners of illegal wells, who cannot access state subsidies, on the condition that they install Pressured Irrigation Systems, and these wells must be used for modern irrigation systems.
  • Sales of Pressured Irrigation Systems should be exempted from VAT, even if for a specific period (i.e., for a few years).
  • A considerable budget should be allocated to save water.

With the savings of water and energy, in addition to the economic and social surplus value to be brought by more widespread use of Pressured Irrigation Systems, any investment in these technologies will definitely pay off in a very short period of time.

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