`'Diffuser' System Irrigates Tunisian Olive Trees from the Bottom Up - Olive Oil Times

'Diffuser' System Irrigates Tunisian Olive Trees from the Bottom Up

Apr. 20, 2015
Isabel Putinja

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An inno­v­a­tive water-sav­ing irri­ga­tion sys­tem devel­oped in Tunisia is pro­vid­ing a viable solu­tion to drought sit­u­a­tions expe­ri­enced by olive pro­duc­ers.

The inven­tor, Bellacheb Chahbani, was a researcher at the Institut Tunisien des Régions Arides for 25 years, before set­ting up his own com­pany, ChahTech, to mar­ket his water-sav­ing irri­ga­tion sys­tem.
Chahbani’s award-win­ning inven­tion was inspired by an irri­ga­tion method which was used by his grand­fa­ther. He would bury a porous earth­en­ware jar filled with water at the foot of trees so that the water could slowly per­me­ate into the earth. Unfortunately the frag­ile jars would often end up break­ing.

Chahbani’s irri­ga­tion sys­tem uses plas­tic water dif­fusers which are buried under­ground. After dig­ging four holes at the base of a tree, a dif­fuser is buried in each hole at a depth of about 50 to 70 cm (20 – 28 inches), at root level.

The plas­tic dif­fusers are con­nected to a net­work of buried tubes linked to a main pipe con­nected to an ele­vated tank. When water is released, the dif­fusers fill with water. A meter keeps track of the vol­ume of water, gen­er­ally 10 cubic meters for each tree.


With this eco­nom­i­cal sys­tem, the tree only needs to be watered once a year because the water is con­tained in the soil, irri­gat­ing the tree through the holes in the bot­tom of the dif­fuser only when the tree needs it. If it rains, the water stored in the earth can be used the fol­low­ing sea­son.

The sys­tem has been suc­cess­fully tested on olive groves affected by drought in arid regions of Tunisia where water scarcity is a press­ing issue.

Compared to a drip irri­ga­tion sys­tem, the dif­fuser sys­tem uses up to 40 per­cent less water and requires less main­te­nance. Another advan­tage is that it doesn’t pro­vide nour­ish­ment to weeds because the dif­fusers are buried too deep to pro­vide water at ground level.

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