Cost-Benefit Analysis of the Use of Various Irrigation Equipment in Sweet Maize Production

Fedor, Bence – Szűcs, István

Keywords: irrigation, sweet maize, economics, efficiency, Q15

Global climate change also affects Hungary, resulting in the ongoing or future change of agricultural production conditions. One of the most noticeable effects of climate change is that the incidence of extreme weather events is increasing. The prevalence of yearly precipitation below 500 mm is increasing in Hungary. Irrigation can contribute to making up for the shortage of rainfall during the growing season to increase yield and reduce yield fluctuation. Therefore, irrigation is a prerequisite for increasing crop yields and improving yield safety in field vegetable production, more specifically, in sweet maize production. However, it is a problem that only about 45% of the fields used for field vegetable production are in irrigated areas, which is around 40 - 45 thousand hectares of production area. One of the reasons for this problem is that the area equipped for irrigation or bearing legal water permit currently covers about 222 thousand hectares (4% of the agricultural area) in Hungary, of which the actual irrigated area ranged between 31 - 59% between 2010 and 2014. To avoid the negative impact of weather extremes and to maintain yield safety, we consider it important in the future to set up irrigation farming and to properly and efficiently use irrigated areas. In our study, we conducted an economic analysis of the two different irrigation systems (hose reel and center pivot) used in sweet maize production in accordance with the production conditions of the North Great Plain region. We concluded that in the case of hose reel irrigation systems, the income of irrigation farming in the sweet maize sector is positive only on favourable production sites, while it produces a loss on average and unfavourable production sites. In the case of center pivot irrigation systems, the income of irrigated sweet maize production is satisfactory and results in a profit also on average production sites, while it has a negative sign on unfavourable production sites. The use of hose reel irrigation systems with lower investment costs can significantly increase the economic results of farming in dry years compared to non-irrigated technology. The operation of the center pivot irrigation equipment is more cost-effective than the hose reel system and considerable additional income can be realised in an average year. Another advantage of irrigation is that late sowing or double cropping can be performed, resulting in a larger area of sweet maize production. Yield quality can also be improved with proper water replenishment.