Irrigation and Drainage Systems

, Volume 25, Issue 4, pp 323–333 | Cite as

Drip Planner Chart: a simple irrigation scheduling tool for smallholder drip farmers

  • Harm Boesveld
  • Llionel Simbarashe Zisengwe
  • Saroj Yakami


Drip irrigation is widely recognized as potentially one of the most efficient irrigation methods. However, this efficiency is often not achieved because systems are not always well designed or maintained and many farmers lack the tools to assess the crop water requirements and to monitor the soil moisture conditions in the field. There is a vast amount of literature on irrigation scheduling but little literature takes scientific information the next step by preparing practical guidelines for smallholder farmers. There is a large and widening gap between the state of the art irrigation scheduling tools and current on-farm irrigation practices. Most farmers find current irrigation scheduling tools overwhelming and lack the means and skills to install and operate them. It is suggested that farmers need simple, cheap and more comprehensive support tools to achieve improved irrigation management at the farm level. Wageningen University and Research Centre (WUR) developed the Drip Planner Chart (DPC) to provide smallholder farmers with a simple tool to schedule drip irrigation to the crops’ needs. DPC is a manual disk calculator to calculate daily irrigation requirement. Farmers’ feedback was the basis for developing the DPC. Using DPC over a three-year period in Spain resulted in a 14 % water saving and improved irrigation timing. Trials at smallholder farmer fields in Nepal and Zambia showed DPC advice is more adapted to the changing demands of the crop over the different growth stages and responds to the farmer’s quest for practical drip scheduling advice. This paper presents the Drip Planner Chart and the scientific validation of the accuracy of the DPC. Experiments on farmers’ fields show water saving in Nepal and improved yield in Zambia. In both countries an improved scheduling over the growing seasons was found using DPC.


Drip irrigation Scheduling tool Small holders DPC 



The research team is very grateful to all the farmers in Spain, Zambia and Nepal who collaborated in the research by providing research sites and commenting on the research. Many Thanks to IDRC Canada for providing financial support for this research and special thanks to IDE Ethiopia, IDE Zambia, IDE Nepal and IDE Myanmar for facilitating the research on farmers’ plots and commenting and suggesting on both the research and the further development of the Drip Planner Chart.


  1. Alderfasi AA, Nielsen DC (2001) Use of crop water stress index for monitoring water status and scheduling irrigation in wheat. Agric Water Manag 47(1):69–75CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Allen RG, Pereira LS et al (1998) Crop evapotranspiration: Guidelines for computing crop water requirements. FAO Irrigation and Drainage Paper 56. RomeGoogle Scholar
  3. Boomaerts ACMM, Hoving IE (1999) Beregenen op maat 1998: toetsing van de beregeningsplanner en-wijzer in de praktijk : onderzoeksresultaten 1998. PR. LelystadGoogle Scholar
  4. Buchleiter GL, Heerman DF, Wenstrom RJ (1996) Economic analysis of on-farm irrigation scheduling. International Conference on Evapotranspiration and Irrigation Scheduling, ST Joseph, ASAEGoogle Scholar
  5. Cifre J, Bota J et al (2005) Physiological tools for irrigation scheduling in grapevine (Vitis vinifera L.): an open gate to improve water-use efficiency? Agric Ecosyst Environ 106(2–3 SPEC. ISS):159–170CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Clyma W (1996) Irrigation scheduling revisited: Historical evaluation and reformation of the concept. International Conference on Evapotranspiration and Irrigation scheduling, St Joseph, ASAEGoogle Scholar
  7. Doorenbos J, Kassam AH (1979) Yield response to water. FAO Irrigation and Drainage Paper 33. RomeGoogle Scholar
  8. Dukes MD, Scholberg JM (2004) Automated subsurface drip irrigation based on soil moisture. ASAE Annual International Meeting 2004Google Scholar
  9. Goldhamer DA, Fereres E (2001) Irrigation scheduling protocols using continuously recorded trunk diameter measurements. Irrig Sci 20(3):115–125CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Irmak S, Haman DZ et al (2001) Dew point hygrometers for irrigation scheduling in fine-textured soils. Appl Eng Agric 17(1):17–25Google Scholar
  11. Keller JARDB (1990) Sprinkler and trickle irrigation. Chapman and Hall, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  12. King BA, Wall RW et al (2001) Visual soil water status indicator for improved irrigation management. Comput Electron Agric 32(1):31–43CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Maisiri N, Senzanje A et al (2005) On farm evaluation of the effect of low cost drip irrigation on water and crop productivity compared to conventional surface irrigation system. Phys Chem Earth 30(11–16 SPEC. ISS):783–791Google Scholar
  14. Manaktala S (2005) IDE (India)’s market creation approach to development. Small Enterprise Development 16(2):36–43CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Mehari Halle A, Depeweg H et al (2003) Smallholder drip irrigation technology: potentials and constraints in the highland of Eritrea. Mt Res Dev 23(1):27–31CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Polak P, Nanes B et al (1997) A low cost drip irrigation system for small farmers in developing countries. J Am Water Res Assoc 33(1):119–124CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Postel S, Polak P et al (2001) Drip irrigation for small farmers: a new initiative to alleviate hunger and poverty. Water Int 26(1):3–13CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Raes D, Sahli A et al (2000) Charts for guiding irrigation in real time. Irrig Drain Syst 14(4):343–352CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Reinato RJ, Howe J (1985) Irrigation scheduling using crop indicators. J Irrig Drain Eng - ASCE 111(2):125–133CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Shirgure PS, Srivastava AK et al (2004) Drip irrigation scheduling, growth, yield and quality of acid lime (Citrus aurantifolia). Indian J Agric Sci 74(2):92–94Google Scholar
  21. Smith M (1992) CROPWAT - a computer program for irrigation planning and management. FAO Irrigation and Drainage Paper 46. RomeGoogle Scholar
  22. Stevens JB (2007) Adoption of Irrigation Scheduling Methods in South Africa. Department of Agricultural Economics. Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Science. Dissertation, University of PretoriaGoogle Scholar
  23. Stirzaker RJ (2003) When to turn the water off: scheduling micro-irrigation with a wetting front detector. Irrig Sci 22(3–4):177–185CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Taber HG, Lawson V et al (2002) Scheduling microirrigation with tensiometers or watermarks. Int Water Irrig 22(1):22–26Google Scholar
  25. Vickers A, Cohen RA (2002) Handbook of water use and conservation. WaterPlow, AmherstGoogle Scholar
  26. Wiedenfeld B (2004) Scheduling water application on drip irrigated sugarcane. Agric Water Manag 64(2):169–181CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Yakami S (2009) Evaluation of the applicability of Drip Planner Chart for irrigation scheduling for small micro-drip farmers: Assisting and advising the extension work in Lalitpur district of Nepal. MSc thesis International Land and Water Management, Wageningen University, August 2009Google Scholar
  28. Zisengwe LS (2009) The greenhouse and open field, drip farmer’s tool…Evaluating the applicability of the Drip Planner Chart for farmer advise and extension work in Kafue, Zambia. MSc thesis International Land and Water Management, Wageningen University, August 2009Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Harm Boesveld
    • 1
  • Llionel Simbarashe Zisengwe
    • 2
  • Saroj Yakami
    • 3
  1. 1.Irrigation and Water EngineeringWageningen UniversityWageningenthe Netherlands
  2. 2.IDE Zimbabwe (International Development Enterprises)BorrowdaleZimbabwe
  3. 3.Saroj Yakami, Scott Wilson Nepal Pvt. Ltd.KathmanduNepal

Personalised recommendations