Knowledge for Development

Wick irrigation for tree establishment


Date: 23/11/2012


Small farmers around the world urgently need to increase water use efficiency. Despite the need for low cost, simple, improved irrigation systems that could increase yields, scientific research and international development programmes have largely neglected this challenge. This is primarily due to the lack of money in these resource-limited communities. Even with increased water use efficiency, many farmers will still struggle to meet their basic food needs. Deep pipe, buried clay pot and other traditional systems work well but are often too expensive. Wick irrigation is a low cost alternative that may help many of these small farmers. A wettable fabric or rope is used to carry water from a reservoir or pipe to the roots of the plant. In its simplest form it can be done with rags and recycled bottles at almost no cost. The wicks help move the water further from the clay pot to encourage greater root development. Subsequent tests and research have demonstrated the value of wicks for irrigation even in very severe environments. These wicks can be gravity flow down (fast), capillary flow up (slow), or a hybrid.

(The Overstory, 17/9/2012)

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