Appropriate irrigation scheduling for efficient water use is often a challenge for small-scale farmers using drip irrigation. In a trial with 12 farmers in Sébaco, Nicaragua, two tools to facilitate irrigation scheduling were tested: the Water Chart (a table indicating required irrigation doses) and tensiometers. The study aimed at evaluating if and to what extent simple tools can reduce irrigation water use and improve water productivity in drip-irrigated vegetable (beetroot; Beta vulgaris
L.) production compared with the farmers’ usual practice. Irrigation water use was substantially reduced (around 20%) when farmers irrigated according to the tools. However, farmers did not fully adhere to the tool guidance, probably because they feared that their crop would not get sufficient water. Thus they still over-irrigated their crop: between 38% and 88% more water than recommended was used during the treatment period, resulting in 91% to 139% higher water use than required over the entire growing cycle. Water productivity of beetroot production was, therefore, much lower (around 3 kg/m3
) than what can be achieved under comparable conditions, although yields were decent. Differences in crop yield and water productivity among treatments were not significant. The simplified Water Chart was not sufficiently understandable to farmers (and technicians), whereas tensiometers were better perceived, although they do not provide any indication on how much water to apply. We conclude that innovations such as drip irrigation or improved irrigation scheduling have to be appropriately introduced, e.g., by taking sufficient time to co-produce a common understanding about the technologies and their possible usefulness, and by ensuring adequate follow-up support.
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