Eastern Cape
Save water on your farm.
13:14 (GMT+2), Tue , 22 July 2014
Eastern Cape
It’s been a long, hot summer. Many farmers, from tiny one hectare plots to hundreds-of-hectares century farms, have been worried about their water supply. It turns out that those who farm using old fashioned or organic principals are faring best in this new era of climate disruption. Mason Gilbert, a small vegetable farmer in Mpumalanga worried about the lack of rain last winter, and delayed planting, hoping that more rain would fall. He credits the crops he has to a five pronged approach: using raised beds, planting closely to minimize water evaporation, mulch, saving the water from his roof and using the available water in a controlled manner. For instance, his tomatoes get regularly scheduled water boosts to help avoid blossom end rot and the carrots, in the raised beds, get enough drainage to keep from being temporarily overwatered and splitting. Having the right irrigation system for your farm should be at the top of your farming list of "things to do." Some crops will more productive with different systems. “Whether you are using gravity flow, pressurized sprinklers, or a micro-irrigation system, it is important to be sure that the system is in good repair and performing properly, and not leaking,” says Gilbert. It is advisable to install a water meter that will help measure performance. After the meter has been installed, turn off the irrigation system and then check to see if the meter is still running. If it is, find the leak and repair it as soon as possible. This can help save immeasurable cubic feet of water every year. Overwatering crops should be avoided as far as possible. Some farmers are set in their ways and believe that it's hard to overwater their crops. While this might be true in some of the more arid climates, it is however not always the case. Also, it depends on how much water the soil can actually absorb. Overwatering a crop doesn't help, all it can do is hurt the local watershed and waste money. Choosing the right time of day to irrigate is also a good way to avoid overwatering. By not watering in the hottest part of the day you will help to avoid unnecessary evaporation. Not watering when it is windy also saves water. It's not always feasible to avoid water during this time of day, but it is well worth the effort. Sometimes, due the size of a farm, crops simply must be watered when you have to. Knowing how much water your crop can actually handle is great way to save water. Plants can only use so much water at a time. This can be measured by checking the evapo-transpiration levels. This means monitoring how much moisture is in the soil before irrigation and then checking again before the next irrigation cycle to see how much moisture was actually absorbed.

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