Efficient use of Resources for increased food production – Micro Irrigation systems

There are a multitude of challenges being faced by Agriculture in the 21st century. We have to produce more food and fiber to feed a constantly growing population and it has to be done with a smaller rural labor force as more and more people are leaving the agricultural sector. There is a need for advanced technologies to contribute to overall development in the many agriculture-dependent developing countries like India and we also have to create a more efficient and sustainable production method whilst adapting to climate change and the many negative effects it will have on agriculture in the coming years.

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Climate change will negatively impact crop production in most low-mid latitude countries, the regions which are currently the main hubs of agriculture which include all of the United States, China, New Zealand, South Africa, Pakistan, and agriculturally significant regions of Australia and India. The United Nations FAO also predicts that the food requirements will go up by almost 60% by 2050. The World population will grow by about 2.3 billion by 2050 and to meet the growing demands we will have to increase the current rate of overall food production by at least 70% and the production of developing countries would need to double. There is a huge land constraint as most of the land suitable for agriculture are already in use leaving no room for agricultural expansion. In the meanwhile, the pressure on renewable energy sources from irrigation are severe. Increasing the water use efficiency for irrigation is a must to preserve our fresh water resources.

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Micro-irrigation is a technology where frequent application of small quantities of water above and below the soil surface is carried out either as discrete drops, continuous drops, or small streams. This is done through emitters placed along the water delivery line. One of the main types of micro-irrigation systems is drip irrigation. It is useful as it saves water and fertilizer by allowing water to drip slowly to the roots of many different plants through narrow tubes that deliver the water directly to the base of the plants. Incorporating micro-irrigation systems on all arable land will increase the efficiency and reduce production cost while at the same time saving a huge amount of water. It will also increase the yield allowing more food to be produced from the available land which is also really important. Such technologies will generate higher farm income persuading more people to come back to the agricultural sector and increase the rural labor force which will in turn increase production.

There are a number of other advantages to micro-irrigation systems market. Apart from increasing the yield and saving water, micro-irrigation technologies, when incorporated will help early maturity of crops and save a sizeable amount of fertilizer which would be washed away faster by surface irrigation systems. It is also more energy efficient and requires less labor which we are in shortage of. It also allows for marginal lands to be irrigated without any issues and saline water can be used for irrigation. It inhibits the growth of weeds and makes inter-culture operations easier.

Currently the global market for micro-irrigation systems is valued at only USD 3.84 Billion but due to its many advantages and the need for more efficient production as well as its many other advantages, the market is growing at a CAGR of 17.80% according to Market Data Forecast’s estimates. The advantages offered now overcompensate for the disadvantages like the high initial investment and high upkeep costs required to run the system. Though prominent market players like Lindsay Corporation, Jain irrigation systems, EPC Industries, Valmont industries, and the TORO company and their engineering teams are working on different setup and water delivery mechanisms to combat the high cost that is restraining market growth which will help achieve a more efficient and sustainable agricultural scenario for the future.

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