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The word ‘fertigation’ might sound like something from a complicated medical journal. It is, however, an important concept in the world of irrigation. To producers, this word means control. It means total control over the timing and quantity of each fertiliser delivery to a plant.
Fertigation, or nutrigation as it is also called, is the delivery of fertiliser through irrigation. Precision fertigation is the optimal root zone management tool delivering just the right combination of water and nutrients directly to the roots of each plant according to crop development cycles.
Drip as a delivery system
To utilise the maximum potential of drip irrigation, one must look at drip not only as an irrigation system but also as a fertigation or total delivery system.
The benefits of delivering nutrients through drip irrigation include:
- Delivering well-timed nutrients throughout the season.
- Precise delivery of nutrients to the root zone.
- Lower occurrence of fertiliser leaching.
- The ability to adapt the fertiliser programme during the season when necessary.
- Daily access to the plant’s root zone when needed.
- A wider range of nutrients can be delivered through drip compared to other irrigation systems.
Many studies prove the impact of well-timed and structured nutrient application. Understanding when the crop needs which nutrients and delivering those nutrients at exactly the right time are key.
Optimised fertilisation control
Fertigation allows producers to completely optimise the fertilisation process and ensure that all fertilisation is executed perfectly. This, in turn, allows producers to better control each plant to ensure optimal growth and minimal resource wastage.
The greatest advantage remains that fertilisation can be ‘personalised’. Fertigation allows producers to fertilise fields, or areas of the same field, where soil type and other factors differ in a way that is perfectly adjusted to that field or zone. Furthermore, it allows producers to only deliver the amount of fertiliser required by the plant at a specific life stage, never more and never less.
Fertigation limits fertiliser loss as fertiliser leaching is eliminated. Furthermore, fertiliser dosages can be kept small but regular and can be perfectly timed to rainfall patterns and other factors. It further allows producers to adjust fertiliser applications according to any influencing factors that may crop up during the season – be it market fluctuations, extremely low or high rainfall, poor crop growth, extreme weather events or disease occurrence. Fertigation, if it is properly managed, can be implemented on most crops and in most areas.
The initial cost of implementing fertigation may be high, but the reward outweighs the cost. Firstly, it results in savings in fertiliser costs, labour costs, energy costs and more. Secondly, the optimised application of fertilisation has the potential to increase yield substantially. – Netafim South Africa