1986wp1 pitcher irrigation


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1986wp1 pitcher irrigation

  1. 1. Pitcher Irrigation: Working Paper #1 Dry Lands Research Institute University of California, Riverside Riverside, CA 9252l August, 1986 (3rd rev. May, 1987) David A. Bainbridge Small scale, low cost, simple methods of irrigation for dry land agriculture have largely been ignored in favor of large scale, expensive, and complex systems even though the majority of the World's dry lands are still farmed by small scale, subsistence farmers. These farmers have been neglected and even the traditional systems that could be of great use to them have not been well studied or publicized. The pitcher or clay pot method is one of the more effective systems for small scale irrigation. This method has been shown to have higher water use efficiency than drip irrigation but more experimentation is needed to help farmers match pitcher surface area and porosity to different crops, climates, and soils. The use of pitcher irrigation in China is described in the book Fan Sheng-chih Shu (about 100 B.C.). Current practices are virtually identical. Make 53 pits in one tenth hectare, each pit 70 cm across and 10 cm deep. To each pit add 18 kilograms of manure. Mix the manure well with an equal amount of earth. Bury an earthen jar of 6 liters capacity in the center of the pit, Let its mouth be level with the ground. Fill the jar with water. Plant 4 melon seeds around the jar. Cover the jar with a tile. Always fill jar to the brink if the water level falls. (the book goes on to describe interplanting onions or beans with the melons and suggests the probable profit). It is likely pitcher irrigation had been used for some time before this description was published. Pitcher irrigation is now used on a small scale in the dry lands of India, the Middle East, and Latin America. This method would probably be used more widely if farmers and gardeners were aware of it. It may also prove of value for landscaping and growing vegetables or flowers in containers. Pitcher irrigation uses a buried, unglazed earthenware pitcher or pot filled with water to provide controlled irrigation to plants near it. [Standard clay garden pots are suitable for use if the bottom hole is plugged.] Pitcher irrigation is effective with both annual and perennial plants. Pitcher irrigation can allow crops to be grown in saline soil where conventional irrigation would not work, and have been shown to provide a better environment for root growth than drip irrigation in these difficult soils. Pitchers are also likely to be of value in very coarse sand or gravel where it is difficult to hold water in the plant root zone. Experiments in India with tomatoes suggest that pitchers may also be valuable when irrigation with saline water is necessary. Tomato yields were high with saline irrigation water, EC 10.2 mmhos/cm. Pitchers are, or have been used to grow pistachio trees in Iran, mesquite, acacia, and eucalyptus in Pakistan, acacia in India, citrus in Brazil, and melons, tomatoes, corn, and other annual crops in China, Mexico, and Brazil. The yield for pitcher irrigated melon in India was 25,000 kg/ha with 1.9 cm water/hectare. Survival of tree seedlings irrigated with pitcher irrigation was 96.5% compared to 62% for hand watering and the height of pitcher irrigated seedlings was 20% greater. Pitchers are better than drip systems in some respects. First, they are not as sensitive to clogging as drip emitters, although they may clog over time (3-4 seasons) and require renewal by reheating the pots. Second, pitchers can be made with locally available materials and skills. And finally, the pitchers are less likely to be damaged by animals or clogged by insects. Pitcher irrigation allows soil amendments to be placed where they will benefit crops most and the precise water application minimizes problems with weeds. The drawbacks of pitchers include increased labor to make and install the system and less flexibility once it is installed. Pitchers can either be filled by hand if labor is inexpensive or connected to a pipe network. Pitcher irrigation should be considered in areas where water supplies are limited or where soil or 1
  2. 2. irrigation water characteristics make traditional irrigation systems unworkable. They will probably prove most valuable in kitchen gardens and subsistence farming but may be of commercial value in some situations. The development of specially designed porous capsules for irrigation may improve the commercial feasibility of this method of irrigation, see for example Silva et al. and Gischler and Fernandez-Jauregui. Acknowlegements: With special thanks to Gene Anderson (UCR) for his assistance with the Chinese literature and translation, Steve Mitchell (UCR) for his help with the literature and data bases, Luiz Ferreira (UCR) for sharing his experiences with pitcher irrigation in Brazil and translation of Portugese source material, Mo Lahsaiezadeh for his comments on pitcher irrigation in Iran, and Jose Trueba Davalos, Guanajuato, GTO, Mexico, for sharing his experience with pitcher irrigation of corn in Mexico. Further reading and sources: Alemi, M.H. 1980. Distribution of water and salt in soil under trickle and pot irrigation regimes, Agricultural Water Management, 3:195-203. Anon. 1978. Clay pot irrigation water conservation in Iran. J. Aust. Inst. Horticulture. 2(11):15. Anon. 1976. Try pitcher farming of vegetables. Intensive Agriculture, 10:19-20. Anon. 1979. Irrigation with buried clay pots. African Envir. 3(3/4):378-380. Balakumaran, K.N., Mathew, J., Pillai, G.R., Varghese, K. 1982. Studies on the comparative effect of pitcher irrigation and pot watering in cucumber. Agric. Res. J. Kerala. 20(pt2):65-67. Douglas, J.S. and de J. Hart, R.A. 1984. Forest farming, ITDG, London, p 154. Gischler, C. and Fernandez-Jauregui, C. 1984. Low- cost techniques for water conservation and management in Latin-America, Nature and Resources 20(3):11-18. Gomez-Pompe, A. 1985 Los Recoursos Bioticos de Mexico, INISRB, Yalapa, Mexico. Kurian, T., Zodape, S.T., and Rathod, R.D. 1983. Propagation of Prosopis juliflora by air-layering. Trans. Indian Soc. of Desert Tech. and Univ. Centre of Des. Studies. 8(1):104-108. Mondal, R.C. 1974. Farming with a pitcher. World Crops, 26:94-97. Mondal, R.C. 1979 Pitcher farming is economical, World Crops, 30, 124. Mondal, R.C. 1983. Salt tolerance of tomato grown around earthen pitchers. Ind. J. of Agric. Sci. 53(5):380-382. Mondal, R.C. 1984. Pitcher farming techniques for use of saline waters. Annual Report, Central Soil and Salinity Research Institute (CSRRI)1983, 18- 19. Rai, A.N. 1982. Pitcher farming. ADAB News. 9(3):24-28. Reddy, S.E. and Rao, S.N. 1980. A comparative study of pitcher and surface irrigation methods on snake gourd. Indian J. Hortic. Bangalore 37(1):77-81. Reddy, S.E. and Rao, S.N. 1980. Response of bitter gourd (Momordic charantia L.) to pitcher and basin system of irrigation. South Indian Horticulture 31(2/3):117-120. Sahu, R.K. 1984. Pitcher irrigation of watermelon grown in coastal saline soils. Indian J. Agric. Sci.54(11):979-983. Sen, H.S. and Bandyopadhyay, B.K. 1984. Water and salt movements through soils under different frequencies of application of water of various qualities. Annual Report, CSSRI 1983, 159-160. Sheng Han, Shih 1974. Fan Sheng-chih Shu: An agriculturist book of China written by Fan Sheng- chih in the first century BC, Science Books, Peking. p36-37. Shiek'h, M.T. and Shah, B.H. 1983. Establishment of vegetation with pitcher irrigation. Pakistan J. of Forestry. 33(2):75-81. Silva, D. A. da, Gheyi, H.R., Silva, A. de. S, and Magalhaes, A.A. 1981. Irrigacao por capsulas porosas IV, Effeitos das differentes pressoes hidrostaticas e populacoes de plantes sobre a producao do milho, Boletin de pesquisa (Centro de pesquisa agropecuaria do tropico semi-arido). Brazil 3, 43-59. 2