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TECHNOLOGIES FOR EFFICIENT WATER MANAGEMENT IN CROPS

Rajan Bhatt, Assistant professor (Soil Science),


Krishi Vigyan Kendra, kapurthala

Water is a vital to all living creature, as it makes up 50-97% of plant and animal,
and about 70% of average human body weight, but regrettably it is the most poorly managed
resource in the World. Ground water resources in most productive areas of World are shrinking
at an alarming rate and may not meet the ever increasing demands from agriculture in future.
Estimates reveled that agriculture sector consumes maximum of the ground water and ~80 per
cent of actual water resources are utilized in agriculture for irrigation purpose. Punjab agriculture
is also facing the problems of water paucity. The over-exploitation of ground water over the
years has led to rapid fall of ground water table in the state. In order to maintain sustainable
productivity, it has become necessary to make efficient use of irrigation water. Many
technologies for efficient irrigation water management have been generated by Punjab
Agricultural University, Ludhiana that ensures more economical use of irrigation water. Some of
the important technologies for enhanced irrigation water use efficiency in crops are described
below.
Laser Land Leveling

Laser leveling is a laser guided precision leveling technique used for achieving very fine
leveling with desired grade on the agricultural field. Laser leveling maintains the grade by
automatically performing the cutting and filling operations. Both level grade and slope grade can
be achieved with the help of this precision equipment. Laser land leveler, levels the field
uniformly and precisely. The technology ensures uniform water distribution in the field and
facilitates light irrigation to the crops, if needed. The technology helps in saving of irrigation
water by 20-30 per cent and ensures better crop stand due to even application of fertilizers and
other inputs and hence results in the improvements in crop yield by 5-10 per cent.

Puddling in Rice Fields

Most of the irrigation water in rice fields goes waste because of its fast percolation into
the fields, particularly those with light textures soils. For coarse and medium textured soils two
puddling operations followed by planking are adequate, whereas in fine textured soils, one
puddling operation followed by planking is sufficient. Puddling of the soil results in decreased
percolation losses and helps ponding water in the fields for longer periods.

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Timely Transplanting of Rice

The evapo-transpiration losses of water in rice fields depend on the temperature and
relative humidity in the atmosphere. Since the months of May and June experience hot and dry
climatic conditions, the evapo-transpiration losses are expected to be the highest. Therefore, the
rice transplanted during the month of May or first fortnight of June, may consume higher volume
of irrigation water due to increased evapo-transpiration losses. The Punjab Agricultural
University, Ludhiana recommends that rice should be transplanted in the second fortnight of
June. Rice variety PAU-201, can be transplanted even up to 5th of July.

Intermittent Irrigation in Rice

Punjab Agricultural University recommends that the standing water in rice may be
maintained only for the first 15 days after transplanting. Thereafter, the irrigation water may be
applied 2 days after the complete disappearance of ponded water from the fields. The depth of
standing water should not exceed 10 cm. This practice not only reduces the amount of irrigation
water used, but also curtails the expenses incurred on electricity and diesel.

Tensiometer Based Irrigation in Rice

This technique of scheduling irrigation to rice is based on soil metric tension. The water
in the ceramic cup of the Tensiometer equilibrates with that in the surrounding soil. With the
result, water level in the inner tube of the Tensiometer falls or rises with decrease or increase in
soil water content. The irrigation to rice is recommended when the water level in the inner tube
crosses the green zone and just entered the yellow zone. This technology works in all soil
textural classes for scheduling irrigation to rice. This technology helps to save irrigation water to
the extent of 25-30 per cent more than that consumed with intermittenent irrigation at an interval
of 2 days.

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Use of Straw Mulch

According to recent estimates approximately 220 lakh tons of Paddy straw is produced in
the state per annum of which nearly 80 per cent is burnt in the fields. Burning of straw causes
environmental pollution, besides loss of many essential plant nutrients entrapped in straw.
Research revealed that the application of straw as mulch during early growth period of various
crops like maize, sugarcane, soghum etc. could save much irrigation water. Use of straw as
surface mulch also modifies hydrothermal regime of soil and suppresses weed growth, leading to
better plant growth and crop yield as a consequence of higher water use efficiency. Furthermore,
the decomposition of added straw enriches the soils with organic matter and plant essential
nutrients.

Bed Planting

To overcome the problem of aeration in wheat due to excessive irrigation of heavy rains
in less permeable fine textured soils and to improve the efficiency of applied water, it has been
recommended to grow wheat on raised beds. The practice of bed planting in timely sown wheat
under medium to heavy textured soils, having good soil moisture has shown a great promise to
realize this objective with comparable to better (3-4%) wheat yield and facilitating efficient use
of water. On an equal area basis, depth of irrigation required in bed planted wheat is 5.0 cm as
compared to 7.5 cm under conventional (flat) sown wheat. In heavy textured soils.

Bed transplanting of paddy has also been recommended. Bed transplanting of paddy
helps in saving of 25 per cent of irrigation water without any loss of crop yield. Raised bed
planting is also convenient for crops like sunflower, chilli, potato and chickpea etc. for economic
use of irrigation water.

Furrow Irrigation

Furrow or alternate irrigation method in wide spaced crops like cotton, maize, sunflower
potato etc. is more economical than the conventional flood irrigation method. This technology
helps in saving of 25-40 per cent of irrigation water over flat irrigation, without any loss of crop
yield. The technique is very beneficial in fine textured soils where water stagnation in the root
zone causes aeration stress.

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Fig. A bumper crop of Paddy grown on
raised beds in heavy textured soils