Israeli drip irrigation system: How to grow an industry drop by drop

Israeli drip irrigation system: How to grow an industry drop by drop

Drip irrigation is an agricultural method, mainly used in arid areas, that allows the optimal use of water and fertilizers. The amount of water applied by this irrigation method infiltrates the plant roots directly watering the zone of influence of the roots through a piping and emitters system that increases any production.

This technique is the most important innovation in agriculture since the invention of the sprinklers in the 1930s and one of the countries that have used it better and even has revolutionized the process is Israel. Thanks to the drip irrigation technique, the Israeli nation has been able to grow and even export tons and tons of food, even though the territory of this small Asian country is not an easy place for growing crops.

Israel is considered a semi-desert country, and in several areas is even desert due to the lack of rain. It has not been blessed with abundant water sources or large reservoirs of groundwater. More than half the country’s territory, in the areas of the Green Line, is tremendously arid, and much of the terrain is mountainous and unsuitable for farming. Of the 21.000 square kilometers of territory within the Green Line, only a 20% is suitable for planting.

However, Israeli children grow up with an idea they are pretty much aware of: every drop counts. Thanks to this philosophy, this country has overcome scarceness to unthinkable levels. Its water has always been scarce and of poor quality. It barely rains, and the Sea of Galilee is almost exhausted. Yet, they have managed to provide solutions to many problems. The key is being aware of limitations and optimizing the few resources to the maximum level. In fact, more than 80% of irrigated areas in Israel uses drip irrigation and micro irrigation and are highly productive.

The drip irrigation systems allow the application of precise amounts of water without waste, and, at the same time using of fertilizers through the drops. These systems were invented by engineers and farmers in Israel for decades, although drip irrigation techniques have been used since the times of old Sumer.

Compared with gravity irrigation systems, drip irrigation systems haunt a rate of 50 to 70% and compared with sprinkler systems, the savings ascend to 20%.

In contrast to irrigation systems, the smart and efficient drip Israeli system are a cheaper and easy to implement. It consists of a set of plastic tubes with a series of holes that let the water flow in a controlled drop flow. The amount of water is measured and provided thanks to smart computers that know how many drops need every plant to produce fruits (for example, mango, grapes or olives), and what kind of special conditions are needed in every case (pH level, nitrogen, phosphorus, sulfates, etc.)

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Image courtesy of SuSanA Secretariat at Flickr.com
Image courtesy of SuSanA Secretariat at Flickr.com

“Like many other findings, drip irrigation was born by mistake due to a technical fault that occurred in a pipe that leaked water,” says Oscar Lutenberg, researcher, producer and specialist in drip irrigation systems. “Thanks to that mistake, it was discovered that the nearest tree to the water loss was the best of the whole plot”. But this system has another advantage: “Drip irrigation solves an environmental problem: the loss of fertilizer, a serious issue that concerns us lately”, concludes the engineer.

Agricultural innovations in Israel, including drip irrigation and natural pesticides, have helped to fill empty stomachs everywhere, especially in developing countries. Since food security is a major concern for our rapidly growing population, and as resources dwindle while the population increases, intelligent solutions for better agriculture and food safer storage are essential. No other country has contributed more in this field. Since the 50s, the Israelis have found not only miraculous ways to revive their desert, but they have shared their discoveries through organizations like the Israel Agency for International Development. Probably no other progress has been so significant. The concept of this system existed long before the creation of Israel, and the engineer Simcha Blass reinvented it completely. He created slowly freed pipes where the water flow was far more effective. Some years after, in 1965, the workers of the Kibbutz Hatzerim built an entirely new industry: Netafim, based on this invention. Netafim has become the main organization that helps local farmers to improve their irrigation systems all over the world.

This technique quickly spread especially in countries with arid empty territories, like India, Chile, and Morocco. And the newer models are very effective: they clean themselves and maintain a uniform flow rate regardless of the quality and water pressure.

The following fact is a testimony to the high agricultural capacity of Israel: one hectare of land worked in Israel produces up to 30 times more than a hectare of any agricultural country. This is a huge contribution to hunger and environmental care, and a lesson that enlightens the world.

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