Water Saving in Arid Regions: Comparison of Innovative Techniques for Irrigation of Young Date Palms
In oases, the surface water resources are becoming increasingly scarce and groundwater resources, which generally have a poor quality due to the high levels of salinity, are often overexploited. Water saving have therefore become imperative for better oases sustainability. If drip irrigation is currently recommended in Morocco for saving water and valuing, its use in the sub-desert areas does not keep water safe from high evaporation rates. An alternative to this system would be the use of subsurface drip irrigation. This technique is defined as an application of water under the soil surface through drippers, which deliver water at rates generally similar to surface drip irrigation. As subsurface drip irrigation is a recently introduced in Morocco, a better understanding of the infiltration process around a buried source, in local conditions, and its impact on plant growth is necessarily required. This study aims to contribute to improving the water use efficiency by testing the performance of subsurface irrigation system, especially in areas where water is a limited source. The objectives of this research are performance evaluation in arid conditions of the subsurface drip irrigation system for young date palms compared to the surface drip. In this context, an experimental test is installed at a farmer’s field in the area of Erfoud (Errachidia Province, southeastern Morocco), using the subsurface drip irrigation system in comparison with the classic drip system for young date palms. Flow measurement to calculate the uniformity of the application of water was done through two methods: a flow measurement of drippers above the surface and another one underground. The latter method has also helped us to estimate losses through evaporation for both irrigation techniques. In order to compare the effect of two irrigation modes, plants were identified for each type of irrigation to monitor certain agronomic parameters (cumulative numbers of palms and roots development). Experimentation referred to a distribution uniformity of about 88%; considered acceptable for subsurface drip irrigation while it is around 80% for the surface drip irrigation. The results also show an increase in root development and in the number of palm, as well as a substantial water savings due to lower evaporation losses compared to the classic drip irrigation. The results of this study showed that subsurface drip irrigation is an efficient technique, which allows sustainable irrigation in arid areas.
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