The drip irrigation experience at the El Recreo farm

Ingenio Mayagüez presented the results of adopting efficient water management technologies in a farm located in the foothills of the Central Cordillera, with stony soils and little water availability. Cenicaña accompanied him in the process of adopting fertigation. This is the story.

For many years the El Recreo ranch was dedicated to livestock.

The difficult terrain conditions, with shallow skeletal soils, low moisture retention capacity, poor fertility, and reduced availability of water in the area, represented a great limitation for agriculture.

Despite this, as of 2012 sugar cane began to be planted on these lands. The productivity results in the first cuts were not satisfactory. With these results, starting in 2013, the Mayagüez mill started a different production system:

The first thing that was carried out in the area was the optimization of the conduction of the available water for irrigation through buried pipes, ensuring the interconnection of all the water infrastructure; electrification of pumping sources and irrigation with sluice pipes was implemented in areas where the slope allowed it. Tests were carried out to verify the behavior of the reduced flow in the steepest area. As a result, it was obtained that the textural conditions of the soil did not facilitate the use of this technique due to the great losses due to infiltration that impeded the advance of irrigation at low flow rates. 

Due to the low availability of water resources (0.51 Lts / sec / ha), the high infiltration of the soils and the low moisture retention capacity, the Mayagüez sugar mill decided to implement the drip irrigation system in 49.35 hectares of the farm. . 

In these 49.35 hectares, drip irrigation with manual control modules was initially implemented, but the demand for labor and the high frequency of clogging of the filters led to a rethinking of the scheme. By 2014 the mill decided to automate the entire system and increase the area to 81.46 ha.

Currently there are irrigation modules controlled with automated valves that open according to programming times. 

The maintenance of the filter head is automatic and works with a controller that monitors the pressure differential between the inlet and outlet of the filter or as a function of the operating time.  

Thus, the work of the irrigator is limited to verifying that the system works properly in the irrigation modules, taking information on flow and pressure at key points in the system (filter, valves and irrigation tapes).

The investment depends on the degree of technology that you want to adopt. A drip irrigation system ranges from 5 to 8 million pesos per hectare; it depends on the automation selected, the type of belt, dripper line and the technology of the filter unit.

With the implementation of the drip irrigation system for the farm conditions, the water requirements of the crop were met with low water availability (module of 0.51 Lts / sec / ha), achieving production increases in the order of 45%, reducing the operating costs of the irrigation work.

The mill's plans are to continue expanding the drip irrigation system in the piedmont area and combine this proposal with varieties recommended for the environment such as CC 00-3257, CC 91-1606, CC 00-3771, among others. 

On June 3, the Mayagüez sugar mill held a field day to present the drip irrigation results at the El Recreo farm.
We are implementing the drip irrigation system, learning with technology, and we are already convinced that it will increase our productivity between 25 and 30 more tons of cane per hectare at the foot of the hill. The investment is logical since the availability of water is limited and the system allows savings of 40% to 50% in the volume of water per crop cycle compared to the window system, in addition to the fact that the increase in productivity offers a rapid return on investment in technology ”. John Paul Rebolledo
Field and harvest manager. Mayagüez sugar mill.





Taking advantage of the infrastructure installed at the El Recreo farm, the Mayagüez sugar mill, with the support of Cenicaña, progressively incorporated the fertigation system in 27 ha with drip irrigation.

The first results did not show significant differences in terms of productivity between a treatment with 7 bundles of urea / ha and another with 5 bundles of urea / ha. The above supports the thesis that a greater quantity of urea does not guarantee high productivity for this type of system; and drip fertigation also allows savings of up to 28% in nitrogen fertilization doses. The investigation will continue with more cuts to validate the results found.


Facing the current climatic conditions of high evaporation and absence of rains in skeletal soils with low moisture retention; Drip irrigation on the El Recreo farm has allowed the evapotranspiration sheet to be replaced in 81,46 hectares planted in sugarcane with just under 45 liters / sec.

Information letter
3 Year / 1 Number / July of 2015

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