MARRIAGE OF THE CHAPIN BUCKET IRRIGATION KIT
AND THE HYDROSOURCE/SUNBELT SYSTEM
Western Polyacrylamide Inc.
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The Chapin Bucket Irrigation Kit is a proven, low cost vegetable production system, ideal for use in most parts of the Third World. It costs less than $US10 ($7 for the kit and $2-3 for the locally-acquired bucket) for a system that will grow two 50′ (16m) rows of vegetables reliably even during severe drought conditions.
We are experimenting by adding a 6′ X 50′ (2m X 16m) strip of Sunbelt, costing about $US18, to the Chapin Kit in an effort to control weeds, evaporation and increase yields. We are also adding small amounts of Hydrosource to determine if the polymer will be a cost-effective method of increasing production. It appears that we will be able to raise significantly more vegetables with the Sunbelt— orsignificantly reduce the watering intervals because of the evaporation control.
This no-till Chapin/Hydrosource/Sunbelt bed was constructed on our farm in two hours on 15 July 1996. It was planted directly down over weeds and 6′-7′ (2–2.5m) Johnson grass (Sorghum halepense) in an old garden which has not been plowed for more than 10 years. The bed was planted with Turkmenistan winter melons (from an unknown variety purchased in early February 1996 in the main market in Ashkabad, Turkmenistan), and Havasupai striped red Indian corn. As part of the test I installed the drip tape on top of the Sunbelt for the corn and below the Sunbelt for the melons. In addition, I hadded a 30 lb. (13.6 kg.) bag of chicken litter compost, plus added 5 lbs. (2.2 kgs.) of Hydrosource Standard to the first half of the bed and 2.5 lbs. (1.1 kg.) to the second half.
The Turkmenistan winter melon plants were lost before maturity to bacterial wilt caused by spotted cucumber beetles, but the Indian corn grew to a height of 10′-11′ (3+m) with 48 plants producing 97 ears of corn prior to the first freeze of fall.
Similar efforts to combine the Chapin Bucket Irrigation System with the Hydrosource/Sunbelt System are being conducted at the University of Wyoming/Torrington and the University of Missouri/Mt. Vernon. In addition, about 15 of the Chapin/Hydrosource/Sunbelt combination demonstration plots were constructed in Turkmenistan during the Winrock International–sponsored trip of George Wrakestraw (Torrington, WY) during July 1996.
It appears that the combination Chapin/Hydrosource/Sunbelt System offers the following:
a.) possible (not-yet-documented) capability to grow twice as many vegetables with the same daily 1-2 bucket(s) of water due to the highly effective evaporation/weed control resulting from the Sunbelt /Hydrosource combination.
b.) or irrigate less frequently (e.g., once every 3-4 days vice daily).
c.) almost 100% weed control.
d.) 100% no-till gardening over weeds, grasses or rocky ground.
e.) virtual elimination of erosion.
f.) estimated 50% fertilizer savings.
g.) projected 10-year or more lifespan for the Sunbelt/Hydrosource.
h.) shovels, plows or hoes not needed—only a hammer, sharpened metal rod and a knife are needed to garden with this system.
i.) some early maturity (not-yet-determined).
a.) higher initial cost. Increases basic Third World cost from about $US10 to $US30 simply by adding Sunbelt.
b.) danger of Sunbelt theft. (Note: In many areas of the Third World the buckets must be removed each night to prevent theft.)
FOOTNOTE: This simple Chapin/Hydrosource/Sunbelt combination is also being examined for possible commercial development in a larger form with the Chapin Quarter Acre Irrigation System. This related system for semi-arid/arid regions irrigates twenty (20) rows 100′ (30m) long. It requires 10 lbs. per sq. inch (psi) water pressure to push irrigation water through the system, or a 15′ (4.5m) gravity drop. In the future we will also look at irrigating such a system through the use of a Fleming Hydro-Ram. There are many sites throughout the world where this system (which does not require electric or gas/diesel for pumping water) has potential.
Copyright 1996 by Daniel J. Wofford, Jr, and Dale Greenwood.