Matka/earthen pot Irrigation

Has anyone ever heard of matka or earthen pot irrigation method. Apparently this method was used in Baluchistan region in ancient times but was dropped in recent times due some unknown reason. The idea is to bury an earthen pot near a plant in the ground, and then fill the pot with water. Water will seep through clay and it will reach the plant. This minimizes the losses due to evaporation.

Now, what i want to do is to test the effectiveness of this method. So i was thinking what type of tests to conduct and on which criteria i should decide the effectiveness of the method.

I will be thankful if some of you can provide some input.

Dear AnaRCHist,

The method you have mentioned is called “Pitcher Irrigation Method”.  The water will be filled in the earthern pot and a small hole is created at the bottom and closed with a cotton thread which will release the water to the roots.  This is something similar to Drip Irrigation.

This method is relevant to Dry Land Farming as water is precious in these areas.  This method is a tried and tested method.

Padmanabhan Ganesan

Dear padmanabhan_ ganesan,

That is exactly what people think when i tell them about this method. In this method there is not any hole in the pot or any thread. I forgot to write but by earthen pot i meant unglazed earthen pot. The water seeps through clay and reaches the plant.

I have tried this method and it works. But now i want to determine its efficiency.

Our Friend Swamy has shown the same in another thread’Re: AGRICULTURE TOURISM - touring to study farm sucess stories’

You can refer the same in that thread. … ourism/30/

Hi All,

Thousands and thousands of mineral water bottles are thrown or crushed every day. How about using these with small holes at the bottom ? will this be effective ?



Dear Murali,

It can be effective. But if you think in this way that using clay pots for irrigation in rural areas will also provide occupation for poor pottery workers, then this method seems better.


I know what this method is and i know that it works. But i need facts. So i what i want to know is what kind of tests i should conduct to get those facts.

Like when they say drip irrigation is this much percent more effective than surface irrigation, on basis of what tests they get that kind of data.

Dear Sir

I have a suggestion. We are using these method for not to wasting water.but we have to purchase matka & have to fill matka after some time . I have think that can we lay the polythene after drain. as per this technique water will not suck by ground & by proper laveling we can irrigate a large field.As per my view this method can be executed & will take less cost & save manpower cost.

I know what this method is and i know that it works. But i need facts. So i what i want to know is what kind of tests i should conduct to get those facts.[/quote]

A bunch of scientific articles on pitcher irrigation were found on Google with a simple query. (You will find even more if you search on Google Scholar.) The top five are described below.

Pitcher irrigation: a water saving technique
This page provides a basic overview of the technique and lays out its various advantages.

Performance of Pitcher Irrigation System [PDF]
This paper looks at determining the optimum pitcher size and argues that use of small sized (cheaper) pitchers with high hydraulic conductivity is comparable with using large sized (more expensive) pitchers although such the former would need to be refilled more frequently.

Development and Revision of Design Criteria for Pitcher Irrigation Systems [PDF]
This is a summary of a longer paper that determined that there are three important design factors that influence movement of water from the pitcher. These are a)  hydraulic conductivity of the pitcher (most important), b) surface area of the pitcher and c) wall thickness of pitcher.

The auto-regulative capability of pitcher irrigation system [PDF]
This paper discusses the strong auto-regulative capacity of pitcher irrigation system looking at how evaporation influences movement of water from the pitcher.

UPDATE…more papers

Pitcher Irrigation Can Utilise Saline Water
According to this page, research by Central Soil Salinity Research Institute (CSSRI), Karnal indicates that even saline water can be used for irrigation in the pitcher irrigation system. Watermelon, muskmelon, tomato and several other crops flourished in saline water supplied through pitcher irrigation. Apparently salt accumulates at the surface of the soil without affecting the root zone.

Water Use Efficiency And Saving Through Pitcher And Polyethylene Bag Irrigation [PDF]
This is an abstract of a paper that indicates 90% higher yields in pitcher irrigation system compared to polyehtene bag irrigation.

thanks very much newbie447…  :slight_smile:

Thanks to padmanabhan_ganesan for identifying the correct term for the matka method – “Pitcher Irrigation.”

Knowing the correct phrase is half the job done. I was scratching my head when I heard about this method in another thread, trying to figure out how it really works until I discovered this thread and looked up “Pitcher Irrigation” on Google.

BTW, I found another micro irrigation method – sub surface clay pipes – that work much the same way but is easier from maintenance perspective as you won’t have to re-fill individual pitchers. Very little info on this online except research done by a Pakistan scientist. See attached paper summary and presentation slide.
Pak paper summary - clay-pipe-irrigation.pdf (348 KB)
Soil wetting patterns under porous clay pipe irrigation.ppt (1.37 MB)

interesting :slight_smile:

Please inform if you find more stuff…