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Nouri, M. et al. Proc. Int. Soc. Sugar Cane Technol., Vol.

28, 2013





Soil and Water Section, Agricultural Research Department,
Karun Agro Industrial Inc, Sushtar, Iran
Irrigation Department, Shahid Chamran University, Ahvaz, Iran

KEYWORDS: Sugarcane, Alternate-Furrow Irrigation,

Water Use Efficiency.

SUGARCANE IS ONE of the important crops in Khuzestan Province, Iran. It consumes
large amounts of water, especially in the hot-dry season. To optimise water
consumption by sugarcane, we compared conventional irrigation with alternate-furrow
irrigation at the beginning of the growing season, during the mid-stage of the growing
season and for the late stage of the growing season with conventional irrigation for the
remainder. The results indicated that there were no significant differences among the
treatments in cane or sugar yield, although there was a trend to an increase of 8.02 t/ha
of cane and 2.08 t/ha of sugar where alternate-furrow irrigation was used from the end
of March to the end of May than where conventional irrigation was used. Sugar levels
were higher under some of the alternate-furrow treatments than under conventional
irrigation. Water-use efficiency could be improved from 2.62 ML/t under conventional
irrigation to 1.97 ML/t. We recommend alternate-furrow irrigation as a method for
conserving water while maintaining yields.
Limited amounts of fresh water are available in arid and semi-arid countries such as Iran, so
it is important that irrigation water is utilised efficiently. Sugarcane is grown over a wide range of
areas in Khuzestan Province and is irrigated by furrow irrigation.
The plant needs large amounts of water, especially during the hot-dry season, as it is a crop
that is sensitive to water stress. However, the plant is also sensitive to excess water in the root zone.
If the groundwater table rises and encroaches on the root zone, the roots suffocate. This
causes the leaves to turn yellow, plant growth suffers and productivity is reduced drastically.
To achieve an optimised water-use efficiency (WUE), growers in Iran use the deficit
irrigation method, allowing production of agricultural crops under the soil-moisture deficiency
conditions that keep water usage low without reducing yield. The net water requirement of
sugarcane in Karun Agro- Industry region has been estimated at about 21.3 ML/ha, of which about
3 ML/ha are provided by rainfall (Farshi et al., 1997).
Sepaskhah (1996) showed that using alternate-furrow irrigation for sugar beet, grown where
the water table was high, could replace conventional irrigation with overall high usage of applied
water. He achieved the same productivity using alternate-furrow irrigation at 6-day intervals as with
conventional irrigation on a 10-day interval.
In addition, the alternate-furrow irrigation at 6-day intervals used 23% less water. Alternate-
furrow irrigation means that every second row is watered in one irrigation and the intervening rows
are watered the following irrigation.
Nouri, M. et al. Proc. Int. Soc. Sugar Cane Technol., Vol. 28, 2013

Sheyni Dashtegol et al. (2006), at the Amir Kabir Agro Industrial Company, tested
alternate-furrow irrigation, regular furrow irrigation and conventional irrigation (every row) in
sugarcane. Although the experiment had no replication, alternate-furrow irrigation consumed the
least amount of water and had the highest cane production and WUE of 1.39 ML/t of white sugar.
Khoramiyan (2001), at the Agricultural Research Center of Safi Abad Dezful (Khuzestan
Province), tested alternate-furrow irrigation for maize production on silty clay loam soil. He
concluded that productivity under alternate-furrow irrigation until the start of flowering could be
much higher than under other irrigation treatments. In addition, this irrigation method used about
half the water that conventional furrow irrigation used.
We aimed to verify and to study the effects of the alternate-furrow irrigation on sugarcane
productivity to optimise WUE. We did this in a trial using a randomised complete-block design in a
plant crop of CP69-1062 at Karun Agro-Industry, Iran.
Materials and methods
We selected a field with a silty clay soil and prepared it for planting using conventional
methods. Sugarcane (variety CP69-1062) was planted at the bottom of furrows 35 cm deep on a row
spacing of 1.53 m. The land slope was about 0.0007 m/m and the rows were 240 m long. After
applying the first round of irrigation, subsequent irrigations were:
1. Control: Conventional irrigation from the end of March to end of September (all
furrow irrigation – AFI).
2. Alternate furrow: From the end of March to end of September (all stages of growth –
3. Alternate furrow: From the end of March to end of May (development stage of
growth – DFAI).
4. Alternate Furrow: From the end of May to end of July (mid-stage of growth –
5. Alternate furrow: From the end of July to end of September (late-stage of growth –
The five irrigation treatments were each replicated three times in a randomised complete-
block design with six furrows per plot. Type 2 WSC flumes were used to measure water flow into
each furrow. Flow was set at 2 L/s.
Soil samples for determining soil moisture levels down to 1 m were taken before and 2 days
after each round of irrigation from three depths: 0–33 cm, 33–66 cm, 66–100 cm. These were
analysed in the laboratory. Field capacity and wilting points were also determined. Plant height was
measured every week.
Sugarcane was harvested from sample areas of 90 m2 from the third and fourth furrow in
each plot to estimate crop yield and sugar recovery. We used SAS software for statistical analysis of
the data. Means were separated by Duncan's New Multiple Range Test at the 5% level.
Results and discussion
The total amounts of water used each month, over the duration of the experiment and up to
harvest are shown in Table 1. There were 27 irrigation rounds in all. Treatment 2 (AFAI) used the
least amount of water and, consequently, had the highest WUE. The conventional irrigation
treatment used the most water.
There were no significant differences in sugarcane yield among the treatments (Table 2).
This might be due to the permeability of the soil that allowed water movement sideways into the
non-irrigated furrows (Figure 1). However, sugar content was significantly higher in the MFAI and
LFAI treatments than in the conventional irrigation treatment (Table 2), presumably because water
was restricted late in the season.
Nouri, M. et al. Proc. Int. Soc. Sugar Cane Technol., Vol. 28, 2013

Table 1—Water use (ML/ha) for each of the irrigation regimes.


April 1.350 0.750 0.750 1.300 1.300

May 2.800 1.550 1.550 3.100 3.100
June 5.800 4.000 5.600 3.500 5.800
July 5.120 3.725 5.600 3.600 5.760
August 3.900 2.175 4.200 3.900 2.250
September 4.200 2.325 4.350 4.350 2.400
Total 23.170 14.525 22.050 19.750 20.610
Total from start 36.910 27.035 35.050 33.750 34.610
Irrigation started in September and continued until the end of March.

Table 2—Sugarcane and sugar yields and water-use

efficiencies of the different irrigation regimes.
Amount of
Cane Sugar Refined * Water use saved water in
of water
Treatment yield yield sugar efficiency comparison
(t/ha) (t/ha) (%) (ML/t) with control
AFI 137.8 14.1 10.2 c 36.910 2.62 –
AFAI 132.0 13.7 10.4 bc 27.035 1.97 27
DFAI 145.9 16.0 11.1 abc 35.050 2.19 5
MFAI 137.5 15.5 11.3 a 33.750 2.18 8.5
LFAI 140.5 15.7 11.2 ab 34.610 2.2 6.2
ns ns
F value 0.48 1.35 4.18*

These results are consistent with those of Pandian et al. (1992) who found a reduction of
43–46% in water consumption with alternate-row irrigation compared with conventional furrow
irrigation. Samadi and Sepaskhah (1984) reported a 29% saving in water under alternate-furrow
irrigation in comparison with the full irrigation in a bean crop.
Our results show that considerable savings in water use can be made by adopting alternate-
furrow irrigation from at least the end of May to the end of July (the mid-stage of the growth
Under a deficit-water situation, we suggest adopting alternate-furrow irrigation from the end
of March to the end of September, as it gives 27% water saving compared to conventional full
irrigation without any significant reduction in sugarcane yield.

Fig. 1—Lateral flow of water from alternate-furrow irrigation.

Nouri, M. et al. Proc. Int. Soc. Sugar Cane Technol., Vol. 28, 2013

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Verification on Methods of How We Can Conquer the Crisis of Water Limitation. Kerman
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Pandian, B.J., Muthukrishman, P. and Rajasekaran, S. (1992). Efficiency of different irrigation
methods and regimes in sugarcane. Indian Sugar, 42: 215–219.
Samadi, A. and Sepaskhah, A.R. (1984). Effect of alternative furrow irrigation on yield and water
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