UBOMBO PILOTS SUB SURFACE DRIP IRRIGATION – A ‘FIRST’ FOR ILLOVO
"UBOMBO PILOTS SUB SURFACE DRIP IRRIGATION – A ‘FIRST’ FOR ILLOVO"
AS part of Phase 5 of the Ubombo pivot conversion project covering 500ha, the estate is piloting sub surface drip (SSD) irrigation on an area of 167Ha. This will be the first in the whole Illovo group to install this precision irrigation technology.
SSD is a type of localised irrigation system which directly applies minute quantities of water into the rootzone of a crop through a series of emitters located at selected points along the water delivery line (lateral/dripper line).
This project presents a good opportunity to test drip irrigation on a scale that does not pose a major risk to the company and at the same time provides a large enough area to be commercially representative. The expected benefits of drip in this project include improved cane yields, water savings and lower operating costs.
Testing drip irrigation is critical given the growing demand for limited water and power in Swaziland and on other similar Illovo operations. The results and experience from this drip project will assist Ubombo and the group to decide on the feasibility of drip irrigation as an alternative irrigation system for cane production.
The installation of drip equiment at Ubombo commenced in May 2014 when a contractor was appointed and has progressed well. By October about 51Ha of the project area had been installed with dripper tape complete with submains and flushing manifolds. The filter stations have been installed in position and installation of the rest of the equipment - namely pumps, electrical switchgear and mainlines - is still in progress.
Training of employees who will manage and maintain the drip system is also in progress with the support of staff seconded to the project by Netafim, who are the drip equipment manufacturer. The system has been designed for a 1.8m crop row spacing. The dripper tape is being installed using GPS guidance. The first 92Ha of drip irrigation was set for comissioning in time for spring planting.
DRIP installation using GPS guidance at Sangweni field at Majombe Section.
FIRST SSD training at Ubombo auditorium, conducted by Yariv Kochavia, consultant from Netafim.
CONSTRUCTION of filter station for high pressure block in progress.