Questioning the system

Published: Friday 15 July 1994

-- On the outskirts of Jaipur is the 5-year-old, 30-acre Anokhi Farms, perhaps the largest in Rajasthan utilising Israeli drip irrigation technology. Owner John Singh, a garment exporter, was impressed with the mechanism during his trips to Israel in the late '80s.

Despite non-existent diplomatic ties, he managed to get the necessary material from Netafim Irrigation Equipment and Drip Systems, which has bases in Hatzerim, Magal and Yiftah kibbutzim. The equipment worked out to about Rs 12,000 per ha. The drip irrigation system was based on the essential principles of Israeli agriculture: water goes directly to the plant roots in measured droplets, at specific intervals and atmospheric pressure, using a 7.5 horsepower pump, with inlet and outlet valves and filters for eliminating suspended particles. The water is transported through a network of pipes with regular perforations, which are fitted with button-like emitters to flow-control drippers.

The farm was divided into 54 dunams (one dunam=1,000 sq m), and the water quantum of each crop was determined. But John Singh says that fertilisers and hybrid seeds made the system questionable. So he shifted to organic farming with indigenous seeds. He feels that low overheads and costs have increased profitability.

Right now, the sediments in the pipes are washed away with the venturi pump, which mixes phosphoric acid with water. The dripperlines are of low-density polyethylene, capable of withstanding ultra-violet radiation. Their length and thickness vary according to particular conditions. There are 2 varieties of lines: in-lines have the drippers built in, and off-lines have external drippers.

Experimental in nature, Anokhi farms grows several crops, dominated by vegetables and fruits like grapes, watermelons, bottlegourd, ridgegourd, ladyfingers, cucumbers, tomatoes and capsicum. Experiments in growing wheat and bajra have also been undertaken.

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