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7th International Micro Irrigation Congress

EVALUATION OF IRRIGATION SYSTEM FOR ASPARAGUS


PRODUCTION

C. S. Chan

ABSTRACT

Rain water is the primary water resource for asparagus cultivation in Malaysia. The rainfall
pattern is non uniform throughout the year and difficult to predict raining days. Supplementary
irrigation is therefore needed during any water deficit periods to maintain crop growth and
production. To enhance asparagus yield and quality, sufficient available soil water is required
through out the growing period. Four irrigation methods, namely, overhead sprinkler, furrow,
spray jet and drip irrigation were evaluated for the yield performance. Yield responses to
different soil moisture levels in the top 45 cm of the soil were also evaluated. Even though
asparagus can survive through the distinct dry period from December to February, continuous
irrigation during the drought was essential to obtained high asparagus yield and quality and
also enhanced quality after the drought period. Results also showed that yields tend to be
higher with light and frequent water application compared with heavy and less frequent
application. For optimum yield levels, soil moisture depletion should not exceed 50 centibar.

B-13
7th International Micro Irrigation Congress

EVALUATION OF IRRIGATION SYSTEM FOR ASPARAGUS


PRODUCTION
C. S. Chan

ABSTRACT

Rain water is the primary water resource for asparagus cultivation in Malaysia. The rainfall
pattern is non uniform throughout the year and difficult to predict raining days. Supplementary
irrigation is therefore needed during any water deficit periods to maintain crop growth and
production. To enhance asparagus yield and quality, sufficient available soil water is required
through out the growing period. Four irrigation methods, namely, overhead sprinkler, furrow,
spray jet and drip irrigation were evaluated for the yield performance. Yield responses to
different soil moisture levels in the top 45 cm of the soil were also evaluated. Even though
asparagus can survive through the distinct dry period from December to February, continuous
irrigation during the drought was essential to obtained high asparagus yield and quality and
also enhanced quality after the drought period. Results also showed that yields tend to be
higher with light and frequent water application compared with heavy and less frequent
application. For optimum yield levels, soil moisture depletion should not exceed 50 centibar.

Introduction

When asparagus was introduced into Malaysia in the early eighties, it was deemed to be a
very profitable crop. However, its initial glamour and appeal have waned, simply because
of the limited local market and lower than expected yields. Asparagus has been cultivated
for centuries but in a totally different environment and climate. Although information on its
cultivation based on experiments carried out under temperate conditions abounds, this can
only be used as guidelines for the tropics. Under tropical situations, water was recognized
as an important input to replenish the soil moisture depletion by evapotranspiration. Furrow,
sprinkler, or drip irrigation has been used to maintain asparagus plants. Irrigation schedules
depend upon local weather conditions, soil textures, and current stage of growth. Report
showed that with irrigation, green asparagus yield and quality in terms of spear size, fibre
content and firm head were enhanced in Taiwan (Chen and Cheng, 1976). Chen and Wu
(1976) found the optimum irrigation interval ranged from 7 days to 10 days. Overhead
sprinkler should be applied in the morning to avoid foliar disease such as asparagus rust.

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7th International Micro Irrigation Congress

Material and methods

The research project was conducted on riverine alluvium at MARDI Seberang Perai research
station located at the northern part of Peninsular Malaysia. The station is situated on latitude
of 5.54 ˚N, longitude of 100.46˚E, and elevation of 10 m above sea level. The air humidity
is always above 80 %. The study area has an equatorial cilmate with uniform temperatures
right through the year. Temperatures range from 32 ˚C during the day to 22 ˚C during the
night. Rainfall is common through out the year averaging 2400 mm a year. The monthly
rainfall pattern shows two periods of high rainfall seperated by two periods of low rainfall.
The first wet season occurs from April to May, and the second from October to November.
The driest months occur from January to February, and again from June to July (Intermonsoon).

Gernerally, the soil textures of the research plot can be classified as sandy clay loam with
proportions of sand, silt and clay estimated at 63, 13 and 24 % respectively. A split plot
design with three replicates were employed. The main plot were consisted of four irrigation
methods, namely, overhead sprinkler, furrow, spray jet and drip. The subplot treatments with
three different levels of soil moisture stress at the top 45 cm of soil profile imposed on each
of these main plots were as follow.

M1 – Irrigation to maintain about 50 centibar soil moisture tension in the top layer
M2 - Irrigation to maintain about 75 centibar soil moisture tension in the top layer
M3 – Rainfed, control

Results and discussion

Responses to different irrigation methods

From the evaluation of the four irrigation methods against the spear yield of asparagus
performance, the results showed that particularly during the dry period, irrigation by overhead
sprinklers and furrows gave significantly higher yields than spray and drip irrigation. However,
there is hardly any significant difference between irrigation methods during the wet period
(Table 1).

Table 1. Effect of four irrigation methods on the spear yield of asparagus for the dry (Dec – Feb) and
wet (Apr – Jun) periods

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7th International Micro Irrigation Congress

Responses to different soil moisture content

The yield of asparagus responded to different soil moisture levels were evaluated during the
wet and dry period. During the dry period (Dec – Feb), a total of 12 irrigation were applied
by the four irrigation methods mentioned above compared with only two during the wet
period (Apr – June). These were sufficient for the treatment required to maintain soil moisture
content of about 50 centibar in the top 45 cm of the soil, which is equivalent to the application
of 40 mm depth of water at 5 to 7-day intervals, depending on climatic conditions.

During the dry period the irrigation treatment to maintain soil moisture tension of nearly 50
centibar gave the highest yield (Table 2). This soil moisture tension was maintained by applying
about 40 mm depth of water at 5 to 7-day intervals. Even though asparagus could survive
throughout the dry period (with 97 mm of rainfall for three months), it gave significantly
lower yield than those from the irrigation treatments. An almost similar trend was observed
during the wet period of the year. The rainfall of 510 mm during this period was sufficient
for all treatment as indicated by tensiometer readings (below 50 centibar). Despite this, the
yield of the control (rainfed treatment) was still significantly the lowest. The results suggest
that asparagus does not fully recover from drought stress during the dry period when there
is no irrigation (Table 2).

Table 2: Effect of three moisture levels on the asparagus spear yield during the dry period (Dec – Feb)
and wet period (Apr – June)

M1 = irrigation to maintain about 50 centibar soil moisture tension in the top 45 cm of soil
profile

M2 = irrigation to maintain about 75 centibar soil moisture tension in the top 45 cm of soil
profile

M3 = rainfed (control)

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7th International Micro Irrigation Congress

Conclusion

Asparagus needs to be irrigated where there is a clear and regular dry period. Even though
the crop can survive throughout the drought, it gave significantly low yield. The stressed crop
did not fully recover during the wet season and thus still continue producing low yield. For
irrigated crop, yields tend to be higher under light and frequent applications compared with
heavy but less frequent applications. For optimum yield levels, soil moisture depletion should
not exceed 50 centibar of soil water tension at any times. This is equivalent to an irrigation
frequency of 5 to 7-day intervals with 40 mm depth of water per application excluding rainfall.

References

Chen, J.W. and Cheng, C.C. (1976). A study on green asparagus irrigation. First Symposium
on Asparagus Research in Taiwan Vol. 1, 1976. Taiwan: AVRDC Chen, Y.W. and Wu, S.J.
(1976). A study on measuring of water requirement for irrigation by tensiometer in green
asparagus. First Symposium on Asparagus Research in Taiwan Vol.1, 1976. Taiwan: AVRDC