Three researchers from Batac in Ilocos Norte are developing the low-cost drip irrigation system (LDIS) for rice-based high-value crops such as bitter gourd to meet irrigation requirements in dry environments.
Known for its dry environment, water is a scarce resource in Batac. The periodic rains from June to November are hardly enough to irrigate the crops planted in the province so Engr. Noel Ganotisi, Engr. Romel Batuac, and Dr. Reynaldo Castro of the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice).
The LDIS uses plastic drum, control valves, filter, mainline and manifold, and lateral lines (moldex hose). It was first used by the team to irrigate a 250-square-meter plot of bitter gourd at a PhilRice station in Batac for the first six months of 2010.
Except for the dripper, all materials are locally available in Batac and elsewhere in the country so anyone could replicate the technology, Ganotisi said.
Ganotisi likewise highlighted that LDIS only costs P30,000, which is up to 72 percent cheaper than commercial irrigation dripping system for a 1,000-square-meter plot.
Ganotisi also reported they were able to save 55 percent of water using LDIS. This amount of water can irrigate other crops, something that could have just been wasted if conventional furrow irrigation was used.
“It’s indeed very efficient. This can be explained by the fact that water was applied “at the root zone of the bitter gourd,” Ganotisi said.
This way, less water is applied “unlike in furrow irrigation where wider area is irrigated since more water is needed to run in furrows. Even those spaces that do not need to be wetted are irrigated when using furrow method.”
Consequently, the team reported that LDIS-irrigated bitter gourd produced slightly higher marketable fruits (78.62 percent) than those irrigated using conventional furrow irrigation (77.02 percent). Additionally, a return on investment of 85 percent over a one year period was reported.
After the station pilot testing, the team started the on-site trial in Currimao, a town in Ilocos Norte.
“This is user-friendly for women and for aging farmers. Once the containers are filled, I only need to turn on and off the drippers and all’s done. I can now focus on my other tasks,” said Agnes Asuncion, who also makes soaps after attending a course from the Department of Science and Technology.