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New Irrigation Tech Aims to Relieve Water Shortage
Drop irrigation technology developed in China is expected to bring relief to countries around the world plagued by water shortage.

The technology, developed by irrigation experts, employs a type of drop irrigation under plastic film, according to Gu Liefeng, an official with the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps, who is in charge of water conservation.

It blends the advantages of Israeli drop irrigation and the Chinese technique of using plastic film in farming. The new method has been proven very effective in water conservation in arid areas, Gu said.

Field experiments have shown that the technology can cut water consumption by 50 percent per mu (0.067 hectares) of farmland, compared with conventional irrigation methods such as flooding field.

It has also shown that it can increase grain output between 10 and 20 percent and generate higher economic returns. In addition, evaporation can be significantly reduced.

The drop irrigation under plastic film technology was initially developed and tested in the 1980s in the reclaimed farmlands in the Shihe6zi area, sandwiched between the Tianshan Mountains and the Gurbantunggut Desert in the northern part of Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region in the northwest.

Shihezi is a typical arid region with an annual rainfall as low as 100 to 200 mm and an annual evaporation rate as high as 2,000 to 2,400 mm. Agricultural operations rely completely on irrigation, and per 0.067 hectares water consumption is about 500 cubic meters.

To date, the technology has been put into use on more than 113, 000 hectares of farmland in Xinjiang, one of the country's major arid regions. It is expected to be employed on more than 266,000 hectares in Xinjiang in the near future.

Despite the advantages of drop irrigation, excessive cost has restricted its application. Until recently, drop irrigation technology has been limited to gardening and vegetable cultivation.

The Xinjiang Tianye Co., Ltd. has developed a kind of drop irrigation belt. The price per meter of the irrigation belt is 0.2 yuan (2.4 US cents), one-fifth of the cost of the same type of irrigation equipment on the world market.

The drop irrigation belt developed by the company costs only 5,250 yuan (US$635) per hectare of farmland.

This compares with 36,000 yuan (US$4354.4) for drop irrigation equipment developed by Israel, which boasts the most advanced drop irrigation technology in the world.

The combination of drop irrigation technology, plastic film technology and inexpensive drop irrigation equipment has made it possible to apply drop irrigation to large-scale farming and has enabled ordinary farmers to enjoy its benefits.

Shi Yuanchun, an academician with the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the Chinese Academy of Engineering, says the method is "a breakthrough in drop irrigation technology and an innovation in the water conservation history of the world."

Currently, more than 100 farm families in the Shihezi area are using drop irrigation technology in the cultivation of cotton.

(Xinhua News Agency February 16, 2003)

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