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Performance of Centre Pivot Sprinkler Irrigation System and its Effect on Crop Yield at Ubombo Sugar Estate

Author Affiliations

  • 1Department of Agricultural Engineering and Land Planning, Sokoine University of Agriculture, P. O Box 3003, Morogoro, TANZANIA
  • 2 Ubombo Sugar Limited, P.O Box 23, Big Bend, SWAZILAND

Res. J. Engineering Sci., Volume 3, Issue (5), Pages 1-11, May,26 (2014)


The objective was to evaluate the performance of centre pivot sprinkler irrigation system and its effect on sugarcane yield at Ubombo Sugar estate to enable proposition of system configurations and management that will optimise water use and sugarcane yields. The process constituted analysis of weather parameters, design parameters, water application and uniformities, hydraulic measurements of pressure and discharge at various points in the system, system operating speed and sprinkler packages, irrigation water quality, soil physic-chemical properties, soil infiltration, soil compaction and sugarcane yields for four centre pivots (EEL09, NKA21, CAS02 and SMB). Results demonstrate that centre pivots were accurately designed and installed as they adequately supplied water to meet sugarcane demand of 7.5mm/day. Performance indicators show that centre pivots were performing relatively well as uniformity coefficients (CU and DU) for the systems were within acceptable standards above the base values of 85% for CU and 75% for DU. Application efficiencies (AELQ and PELQ) were only achieved by CAS02 and SMB as they were above the minimum of 90%. Poor infiltration as a result of compaction and clogging of sprinklers for EEL09, and lower than design pressure at pivot point for NKA21 were responsible for the sub standard application efficiencies. Soils were inherently sandy textured with a mixture of shallow and deep profiles. The physic-chemical properties indicate that soils were ideal for sugarcane growth except for shallow profiles which limited sugarcane yields due to the combined effect of low water holding capacity, reduced infiltration and hence runoff as a result of compaction by mechanical harvesting. Quality of irrigation water was within acceptable levels and had no negative impacts crop and soil. Yields were a major factor indicating the performance of the system and only EEL09 achieved low yields of 71 t/ha against 147 t/ha for CAS02, 124.8 t/ha for NKA21 and 106 t/ha for SMB. This is evidence of the performance and potential of centre pivot irrigation system. Factors affecting performance were pressure variations, clogging of sprinklers, rutting of un-gravelled tracks, shallow soils, compaction, reduced infiltration and game encroaching cane fields. Constant pressure checks, flushing of sprinklers, gravelling tracks or installing back booms, chiselling and ripping as well as fencing fields can improve system performance and sugarcane yields at Ubombo.


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