Purificación A. Valderrama

Underground irrigation strips with integrated dripper.


Purificación A. Valderrama

Case Study Contents

About Farm

Farm Name

Felipe E. Sanchez y Otra Más CB
(Purificación A. Valderrama)

Year of foundation



Andalucía, Jaén

Farm area/size of the organisation:

2.5 ha

Number of workers:

1 permanent and 10 seasonal workers

Farm main activity:


Climate and soil characteristics

Jaén countryside, clay soils. Hot summers and dry winters. Rainfall of less than 400mm/year.

Irrigation from the Guadalquivir River, through the Santa María Magdalena irrigation community, with water intake in Mengibar. There are 10.89 km to the river with a reservoir at Pozo Pimiento after 2 pumping points.


Measure Information

Description of the measure

Change from rainfed to in-ground irrigation strips with integrated drippers.

Drippers are spaced 1.3 m apart and buried 20 cm deep, with flow rates of 1.6 liters/hour.

The pipes are 16 mm buried on both sides of the olive tree lines. The olive trees are composed by several trunks with an increased water requirement; this measure guarantees water in all the root network of the olive tree.

Both ends of the bands are connected to 32 mm pipes to guarantee supply even in case of pinching or breakage of a line.

In addition, an irrigation head has been created from which fertigation is carried out with an automated system.

Objective of the measure

The main objective is to make water available in areas where it can be used by roots, as well as to reduce evapotranspiration by up to 30%, to avoid breakage caused by field work and to prevent breakage by rabbits that seek water in this area by chewing the rubber bands.

Justification of the choice

Land with a good retention capacity, it was intended to use 100% of the irrigation water to reduce evapotranspiration, for which it was decided to use underground irrigation.

To take advantage of water between rows, an olive tree was planted between the tree line, (switching from 10m x 10m to 5m x 10m frame).

Where did You get information of the measure from?

From the farmers’ previous experience and knowledge of what was being done on other farms, the landowners, in agreement with the irrigation installer, decided on the best system and design to suit their objectives.


Stakeholders involved

David Navarro, an irrigation installer from Mengibar.

Description of stakeholders’ role

They did the installation and the sprinkler head with the automaton system.

Implementation phase

Description of the survey done for the implementation

4-5 quotations were requested until a supplier was selected based on cost and installation design.

Materials used

  • 16mm pipe with integrated drippers
  • 32mm polyethylene pipe
  • Irrigation head with automatic irrigation system
  • Fertigation system
  • Filters
  • Solar panel
  • Rings with pressure regulators (1,8bar).
  • Plants for intensification (5×10 frame)

Costs for the implementation

13.000 €

Implementation / building

The irrigation community brings water from the Guadalquivir River (10 km of distance), with two pumping systems to two reservoirs, irrigation is carried out at a pressure of 10 bar, which is regulated on the plot at 1.8 bar.

The installation was carried out with a shovel and a mole, it has a container where all the electrical equipment, filters and fertiliser injection system are located. In addition, solar energy is used to manage the electronic equipment (automatons).

Required maintenance operations

Automatic filter cleaning is carried out, but filter and end-of-line cleaning is done manually every year.

The fertiliser used is acid reaction, which avoids precipitates and blockages.

The 16 mm pipe joints are checked, as there may be 2-3 breaks per year due to pressure.

Recommended knowledge / skills / training / courses / education desired before starting the measure implementation

Agronomy, irrigation technology, fertilisation.


Production has tripled from 7,000 kg per year to 27,000 kg per year. Productions corresponding to 3000 m3 are obtained with consumption of 2000 m3, thus saving in terms of cost. However, the changeover to irrigation increases the number of working days for tasks such as clearing, weeding, maintenance, etc.
Reductions in water consumption of up to 20-30% have been achieved, yields corresponding to higher water allocations are obtained. Therefore, the allocated water is optimised to the maximum with a high water productivity.
The greater need for labour, linked to irrigation, boosts contracting for tasks and harvesting, with longer campaigns. It also boosts the network of service providers for the installation and maintenance of irrigation systems.
This system requires maintenance and care in the use of deep ploughing, avoid cutting rubber bands or pinching, ensuring optimal use, and avoiding maintenance costs due to careless use of the system.


Innovation elements

The automation using solar energy, this system allows the opening of sectors, filter cleaning and irrigation injection automatically.

Another innovative element has been the closing of the circuit by connecting the two ends of the 16 mm pipe to the 32 mm pipe, which guarantees a continuous system with stable pressures even in the event of rubber pinching.

Key element for success

The design is fundamental, trying to optimise water to the size of the plot.

The use of automatisms and regulators that facilitate handling and minimise the need for manual labour.


Physical constraints

The plot is very long and narrow with little slope, but to have the same pressure in high and low parts, they have had to sectorise with 2 irrigation sectors.

The distance to the river, 10 km, makes it necessary to manage the water supply through an irrigation community that carries out the pumping and storage of water in reservoirs.

Acceptance constraints

For many people, the higher cost of burying irrigation strips does not justify their use. However, experience justifies the higher cost in terms of water savings and lower maintenance costs.

Proposed solutions to above constraints

The correct description of the benefits obtained can reduce acceptance constraints.

Regarding the lack of access to water resources, they justify access to irrigation communities, despite the high cost of accessing them.

Lesson learned

Farmers’ experiences

The farmer is very satisfied, although in order not to lose water he recommends increasing the planting density (in his case they switch from 10×10 to 10×5 plantation frame).

In this case, they had to install surface drippers to be able to water the new plants, whose roots did not reach the wet areas.

Measure sustainability

Environmental sustainability

The water saving is evident, but irrigation also allows for better management of plant cover as there is less competition with the crop. This means less soil loss, a greater contribution of organic matter, as well as greater biodiversity. In addition, solar energy is used, zero emissions.

Economical sustainability

The economic sustainability of the measure, apart from the integration into the irrigation community, is justified by its rapid amortisation through higher productivity, lower maintenance costs, as well as the social impacts derived from the greater need for labour.

Transfer of the measure

Replicability conditions required

  • Water availability (physical and legal)
  • Non-sandy soils
  • Optimal system design
  • Careful soil management
  • Periodic maintenance
  • Financial availability to undertake investments

Additional Required Conditions for spreading the measure

  • Availability of water and soil suitable for underground irrigation (clays) is required.
  • Willingness to take on more investment for optimal water use.
  • Social structures that can be assimilated to irrigation communities.
  • Climatic and soil conditions justifying the higher cost of this type of measure.

Conclusion remarks

The use of buried strips is an increasingly widespread system that ensures the best use of water, especially in regions with high evapotranspiration.

The design, maintenance and optimisation of the system is essential to achieve this objective.

Future plans

This was the first experience with this system, which has led to its implementation in other almond plots in the same county.

Open problems

The slope, soil type and planting density are aspects that must be taken into consideration to avoid problems or poor use of the entire wet band obtained with this system.

The use of suction cups is necessary to avoid suction of the system and obstruction of drippers for this reason.

The possibility of pinching due to soil displacement or works, makes it advisable to use a double band of constant flow (with the ends connected).


“The handling is simple and does not give many breakdowns, it is necessary to make a good design to avoid aspirations and to use acid fertiliser to avoid deposits and obstructions”.

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