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It’s Raining, It’s Pouring…All About Irrigation Systems

Drip irrigation imageAsk any grower what their biggest “growing headache” may be and you’ll get a variety of answers, but I would bet that one of the top responses would be concerning watering crops and produce. You won’t hear “rain, rain, go away!” being sung by too many farmers these days, with many across the country facing drought and hot temperatures that are scorching crops and making it difficult to keep up with watering. However, there is relief in sight! It comes in the form of irrigation. When it comes to determining what type of system will work best for you, here are some tips and information that can be helpful to making sure your crops and plants stay healthy and well watered.

Drip irrigation system

Drip Tape Systems

This system is made of high-quality polyethylene tubing with small outlets to allow water to enter the soil. Generally, the holes in the drip tape are spaced about 12” apart, allowing water to come out at the base of plants, if they are spaced accordingly. Drip tape only lets out small droplets of water at a schedule that a grower can maintain with timers and control units. Drip tape is either placed along rows of crops or buried underground, and can be left in or on the ground all season long, but should be removed in winter to prevent any damage from cold or ice in climates where winters are harsh. These systems are ideal for growers whose plants remain in place once they are fully grown. Drip irrigation systems are great choices if you are growing row crops, and should only be used where at least one emitter can be placed at the site of each plant.

Dripper system

One of the greatest benefits of drip tape systems is water conservation. Because drip tape only allows the amount of water that a plant needs, excess water waste is avoided. You’re also getting a uniform, controlled amount of water to your crops because the pressure and size of the emitter holes are all the same throughout the drip tape. It is important to regulate pressure so water is being evenly distributed along the length of the tape. Because water is not hitting the leaves and foliage of plants, disease is also prevented when using a drip tape system, since disease can be spread by sitting water on plants’ leaves. Along the same line, drip tape can also be used to deliver herbicides, pesticides and fertilizer to plants, if needed. Growers will get even distribution of these products when using a drip tape system and not worry about over or under-treating plants.

Irrigation system

Dripper Systems

These systems are very similar to drip tape, in that they distribute small droplets of water directly to the base of a plant on a schedule that is maintained by you, the grower. Dripper systems, however, have customizable options for water emission, and are attached to a rigid poly tubing with holes at whatever intervals you desire. Depending on your crops’ needs, you can space and insert the drippers at whatever distance you want and choose the type of dripper that will emit the appropriate amount of water for your crops. These systems are great for trees, vines, permanent row crops and a variety of greenhouse and nursery applications. Again, dripper systems are a great way to provide a consistent water source to your crops. Drippers adjust themselves based on line pressure, so water distribution remains about 94% uniform, even if your plants are on a slope.

Drip irrigation in high tunnel

 Sprinkler Systems

Who doesn’t love a good run through the sprinkler? In addition to being a great way to cool off on a hot summer day, sprinkler systems are a great irrigation option for growers who want to water a large area at once. Unlike your typical lawn sprinkler however, sprinkler irrigation systems can be controlled and maintained to make efficient use of water in particular areas. With a sprinkler system divided into circuits running from a main water source, control valves can be operated by an electronic controller according to time settings you can choose and regulate as needed. Ideal for use inside a greenhouse or high tunnel, sprinkler systems provide great coverage for plants that don’t receive regular rainfall.

Dripper system

Irrigation is not complicated and it’s easy to find an application that works for any growing situation. How do you combat dry conditions in your growing areas?

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