13.09.2021

Watersaving irrigation system in Viet Nam

mandarin trees

In northern Viet Nam, citrus orchards need water-saving irrigation for a short period of the year to achieve optimal yields. Photo: Michael Scobie

In the hilly region of Yen Bai in the north of Viet Nam, government agencies have encouraged farmers to replace their tea gardens with fruit trees, specifically citrus to diversify the cropping in the region. Citrus is suited to well-drained soils of Yen Bai and non-irrigated cropping is profitable. However, there can be dry periods throughout  the year where the perennial trees are subject to some water stress. During these short periods, fruit yield and quality are potentially impacted.

irrigation systemHa Quang Minh has a citrus orchard near Yen Bai. He has been harvesting mandarins for the past few years but felt that his production was limited by not watering his trees in the dry season. The DeRISK Southeast Asia project, with the irrigation component led by the University of Southern Queensland (USQ) in collaboration with the Vietnam National University of Agriculture (VNUA), has installed a microsprinkler irrigation system and instrumented Ha Quang Minh‘s citrus orchard with a range of soil moisture, weather, and flow monitoring hardware. Combining a precision irrigation system with monitoring technology to give detail on how much water is required by the crop, Ha Quang Minh is able to manage the water use in his orchard to maximise his crop yield and improve his water productivity. The precision under tree micro-sprinkler system was designed to meet both the demonstration requirements but also the farmer’s future requirements for expansion of his orchard after the project. 

Covid-19 travel restrictions meant that the USQ team with irrigation engineering expertise was not able to assist with the design and installation on site. By navigating through this challenge, the USQ team worked closely with the team from VNUA and a local supplier to design and install the hardware with remote supervision through the social networking tool WhatsApp. The USQ team provided real-time advice on tips and time-savers for the field team. Videos were shared to show the operating pressures and measurements of the flow rate in the system. The farmer was able to easily negotiate changes to the irrigation mainline and the inclusion of a simple fertigation valve to improve the precision dosing and application of soluble fertilizers.

group photoFinally, a commissioning test involving checking pressures and measuring the distribution uniformity of the system was undertaken with positive results. While nothing can take the place of being in the field and troubleshooting with partners, the WhatsApp platform provided an opportunity for real-time feedback on the installation and commissioning of the installation in Yen Bai. The remote monitoring systems allow the project team to access and analyse data in real time from any location in the world.