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The Science of Fertigation

The winning combination of water-soluble fertilisers and drip irrigation

It’s official. July 2023 was the hottest month ever recorded

In the face of increasing agricultural demands and environmental concerns, precision farming solutions have never been more crucial, with fertigation as key to the agricultural innovation we need. It offers a remarkable fusion of efficiency and environmental sustainability, and is a big part of our commitment to sustainable agriculture.  

What is Fertigation?

Combining fertiliser and irrigation in one delivery method, fertigation is an ultra-efficient agricultural practice where water-soluble fertilisers are delivered directly to plants via irrigation methods. It’s typically the most precise form of drip irrigation. 

Fertigation streamlines farmers' ability to apply the perfect formulation of fertiliser exactly where and when it's needed. Automated fertigation systems also help to streamline the process of regulating nutrient application rates and schedules. 

But fertigation delivers more than impressive yields stats and greater efficiency. It also benefits the environment by saving water, preventing land contamination, and tackling soil erosion.

Advantages Of Fertigation

Matches fertilization to crops’ needs

Fertigation allows for precise nutrient delivery, ensuring crops receive exactly what they need for each stage of their growth cycle. It results in improved crop yields, quality, and uniformity. 

Optimises water consumption

By combining drip irrigation with fertilisation, it’s far easier to use water more efficiently. This is a cornerstone of our commitment to environmental sustainability, especially in sub-saharan Africa.

Cost savings and automation

Reducing fertiliser amounts and simplifying fertilising procedures save costs and allow for streamlined operations.

Reduces pollution and weed density

Fertigation enables farmers to decrease chemical applications and prevent fertiliser leakage, leading to the growth and subsequent need for pollutant chemicals needed to eradicate the weeds.

Promote soil and crop health

The correct blend of water-soluble fertilisers helps to reduce over-fertilisation and nurture the surrounding soil, positively affecting soil microbial biomass and encouraging rapid root growth.

The Role of Nutrients in Fertilizers

There are sixteen known elements necessary for plant life. Twelve of these elements are found in water-soluble fertilisers. Different brands have varying mixtures of trace elements, but all fertilisers contain Nitrogen (N), Phosphorus (P), and Potassium (K) as these are the most vital to a plant’s development.

Nitrogen (N) is vital for growth and plays a significant role in producing proteins and chlorophyll. It's responsible for the lush green colour, as well as the overall size and vigour of plants.

Phosphorus (P) is essential for photosynthesis and ensures a smooth energy transfer within the plant. It supports germination, seedling growth, and fruiting stages.

Potassium (K) is key to synthesising sugars and starches. It promotes cell division, benefiting plants throughout all growth phases. It also increases chlorophyll levels in the foliage and helps regulate the stomata openings so plants make better use of light and air.

Magnesium and calcium are also very important fertiliser additions. Magnesium is the central atom in every chlorophyll molecule and is essential to the absorption of light. It aids in the utilisation of nutrients and also neutralises soil acids and toxic compounds produced by the plant. And magnesium helps to manufacture more cells and benefits overall crop yield.

Trace Elements like iron, sulphur, and manganese, even in minute amounts, serve as catalysts for various plant processes and their ability to utilise other elements in its growth phases.  

Powering Fertilizers through Drip Irrigation

Unlike traditional watering methods, which spread water over a broad area, drip irrigation focuses on providing each plant with precise hydration directly to its roots. We can engineer both the fertiliser and irrigation method to suit the individual needs of different crops, ensuring that each plant receives the exact amount of water and fertiliser it requires. We develop unique solutions for every build, but all our drip irrigation systems contain the same basic foundation. 

First, we test the water source to understand the water quality. This water will flow into a tank that contains a special diet of nutrients (custom fertiliser) to feed specific crops. Now, we’re ready to create a network of pipes that transport the fertiliser-rich water from the main water source to each individual plant. These pipes contain valves that control the water flow, allowing precise adjustments to be made to the amount of water delivered to different parts of the greenhouse or farm. And the final touch is specialised devices called emitters. These release water directly to the roots of each plant at a controlled rate. Emitters come in various designs to suit the specific needs of different crops.

We’re all about precision farming

As part of the Netafim group, we see fertigation as more than an engineering solution – it's a philosophy that reflects our mission to help farmers grow while minimising resources and maximising yield. Fertigation embodies Netafim’s excellence and passion for promoting precision farming as a sustainable solution to challenges like water scarcity, food insecurity, and the need for responsible land management.

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