How Effective is the Plastic Bottle Drip Irrigation System?

plastic bottle drip irrigationIn 2016, when President Museveni demonstrated how to use a plastic bottle drip irrigation system on his farm, he received many criticisms. Those who criticised him gave the following reasons:

  1. Plastic bottle drip irrigation was rudimentary and old-fashioned.
  2. Secondly, the poor disposal of non-biodegradable bottles was likely to affect the soil negatively and cause widespread environmental impacts if plastic bottle drip irrigation is promoted.
  3. Thirdly, it wasn’t taking into account the time and energy spent to fetch water for irrigation purposes.
  4. Fourthly, it was not sustainable.
  5. Lastly, the promotion of plastic bottle drip irrigation was a setback and diversionary to initiatives intended to modernise agriculture.

Well, at that time, I hadn’t yet thought about venturing into agriculture as a business. But when I started a small backyard garden, I saw a need to water my tomatoes, kale, cabbages and passion fruits in the dry season. Therefore, I bought a watering can and started immediately watering the plants. It somehow worked. However, I experienced the challenge of using too much water to irrigate the crops.

The burning desire to venture into agribusiness made me start an avocado growing project. I started with about 100 trees in October 2020. During the dry season that followed, I lost 30 trees (worth UGX 240,000 or USD 67)  to drought. I then researched. And eventually, I discovered that drip irrigation using pipes was the most effective method of watering my avocado trees.

Plastic Bottle Drip Irrigation Vs Pipe Drip Irrigation

pipe drip irrigation

Pipe Drip Irrigation

After discovering the drip irrigation system using PVC pipes, I went ahead to establish its cost. The initial cost was high, about UGX 12 million per acre. Although it’s convenient and consumes less time, it’s not affordable by the majority of Ugandans.

On the other hand, plastic bottle drip irrigation is laborious, especially if your garden is large. Although it’s cheap to set it up, you have to refill the bottles with water quite often. I think it’s the reason why the critics of Museveni drip irrigation argued that it was not sustainable.

What Can You Do, Then, to Venture into Agribusiness with Limited Resources?

plastic bottle drip irrigation

Plastic Bottle Drip Irrigation

If you don’t have enough resources for a modern drip irrigation system, you can still venture into commercial agriculture. You don’t have to wait for the government to extend water near your community. Similarly, you don’t have to wait for it to provide you with access to modern irrigation technologies. Why? Because you don’t know yet when such a government initiative will come forth.

Secondly, when you conceive an agribusiness idea, it’s always prudent to take action immediately. But waiting for the government to extend irrigation technologies to your community will result in procrastination. And the truth is, you will never start your agribusiness. Because of the above reason, I concurred with Museveni’s method of using plastic bottles to irrigate plants in the dry season. Although it was regarded as a rudimentary irrigation method, it’s affordable and simple for anybody to use.

One important aspect you must learn right from the start is that water is essential to gardening or agriculture. Plants need water to grow. Consider investing in having water readily available near your garden. Secondly, the way you water determines the success of your agribusiness. Thirdly, to earn big from agriculture, you must learn to grow crops in the dry season. Why? Because you want to harvest them at a time when they’re in high demand.

Because of the above reasons, you should consider irrigating your plants to benefit from your agribusiness. And in this post, I would like to present to you how to set up a functional plastic bottle drip irrigation system.

How Do You Build an Effective Plastic Bottle Drip Irrigation System?

irrigation water reservoirFirst and foremost, think about having a source of water near your garden. If your farm is far away from the natural water source, then build water reservoirs at its edges. Digging a reservoir is not hard. You can do it yourself if you don’t have money. Alternatively, you can hire a casual labourer to dig it for you.

The size of the reservoir will depend on your water requirements. Of course, if your farm is big, you can either dig one big reservoir or several small ponds at different locations. So, with your reservoirs created, you will have to catch runoff water during the rainy season. It’s this water that you will use to irrigate your crops in the dry season.

Secondly, you will collect big plastic bottles of 1.5 to 2 litres. You can get them from restaurants. But you can also get them from garbage collectors at a fee. I buy my bottles from the KCCA landfill in Kiteezi at UGX 100 each (USD 0.02). That’s quite affordable.

How Do You Set Up a Plastic Bottle Drip Irrigation System?

Creating a plastic bottle irrigator isn’t hard. But making a slow-release drip isn’t all that easy. Before I set up my plastic bottle drip irrigation, I researched several methods and tried them all. However, I failed to achieve a slow water drip.

Let’s now dive into the different methods, which include:

1. Hanging bottle above the plant

2. Cap-end buried into the soil

3. Bottom-end buried into the soil

The last two methods involve punching holes and bury the bottle into the soil. I didn’t like them because of the bad experience I had with them. Either the water got finished in seconds, or the holes got clogged up with dirt, and the water stopped dripping. I instead opted for the hanging bottle drip irrigation because I could see water dripping. Secondly, I could adjust the drip rate.

How do you get a slow drip?

V-shapeAt first, I punched a hole in the cap with a small nail and hanged it upside down on a tiny pole over my plants. Gosh. The water ran out fast. Since I wanted a slow drip, I changed the strategy. Instead, I cut a small V-shape at the top of the bottle mouth. Thereafter, I put back the cap and powered water into the bottle. I slowly adjusted the cap to allow the water to seep up. This step involves loosening or tightening the cap until you achieve the right drip-rate.

I then hang the bottle on a tiny pole over the plant. I used a two-inch nail to attach the bottle to the pole. Voila! That’s how the hanging plastic bottle drip irrigation technique works.

What are the Advantages of the Plastic Bottle Drip Irrigation?

  1. It is cheap to set up. You get discarded plastic bottles free of charge. The only cost is with digging a water reservoir if you’re not near a natural water source.
  2. It enables you to use water efficiently and reduces your water consumption in the garden by over 60% compared to other irrigation methods.
  3. Crops mature early, which leads to higher returns on investment.
  4. It increases yields up to 230%.
  5. Bottle drip irrigation eliminates soil erosion and reduces weed growth/water evaporation.
  6. It only supports the growth of the target plant and not the weed because the water supply is only at the crop’s root area.
  7. Plastic bottle drip irrigation enables you to fertilise your plants effectively by mixing the fertilisers with water.
  8. It provides moisture around the plant’s root area and keeps the root system hydrated throughout the day.
  9. When you use plastic bottles to irrigate your plants, you recycle them instead of throwing them out to endanger the environment.
  10. It enables you to make money from your agribusiness throughout the year.

What are the Disadvantages of the Bottle Drip Irrigation?avocado drip irrigation

  1. It’s somehow laborious. You have to refill the bottles regularly, and if you have a big garden, you spend a lot of time and energy doing it. Secondly, you have to adjust the cap several times until you achieve the right drip rate.
  2. If aesthetics is your top priority, having plastic bottles all over your garden doesn’t look pleasant.
  3. It’s not suitable for crops planted so close to each other.

Which Crops are Suitable for Plastic Drip Irrigation?

It’s suitable for orchard crops, plantation crops, vegetables and flowers. It’s also practical with cash crops and other crops not planted close to one another.

Final Thought

As I conclude, let me ask you again. Is the plastic bottle drip irrigation method recommendable? Personally, I would say yes. Although it’s rudimentary, as some critics put it, it helps people to venture into agribusiness.

My appeal to you, therefore, is to ask you to venture into agribusiness. Start by irrigating your crops with plastic bottles if you don’t have money for a modern irrigation system. Then with time, work towards installing a pipe irrigation system. What do you think?

Hello! My name is Charles Kiyimba, a creative engraver, a professional teacher, a passionate blogger, a confident graphic/web designer and the founder of Goleza Designers Ltd, an engraving business that turns images into real products. Through my hands-on experience, I share with you free helpful information on our products and services, business, marketing and personal development. Always dive in for more!


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