Conserving water and reducing costs is always a priority for vegetable growers nationwide. Implementing drip irrigation is one way to conserve water for more sustainable production, according to Penn State University.
As a University of Florida study explains, drip irrigation allows for a controlled application of water by allowing water to drip slowly near the plant roots through a network of valves, pipes, tubing, and emitters. And when properly managed, it can reduce labor and production costs and improve productivity, all benefiting the grower’s bottom line.
Some advantages of a drip irrigation system include:
- Requires half to a quarter of the volume of water required by comparable overhead irrigation systems
- Allows for joint management of irrigation and fertilization
- Doesn’t wet the row middles or the foliage of the crops like overhead irrigation, which helps reduce pest problems
- Requires lower operating pressure than overhead irrigation
- Can be managed and programmed with an AC- or battery-powered controller
- Adaptable to oddly-shaped fields or those with uneven topography or soil texture, maximizing the use of available land
- Enhances earliness and crop uniformity (when combined with raised beds, polyethylene mulch and transplants)
Experts at Penn State University provide a few tips on how growers can maximize their drip irrigation system:
- Check filters daily and clean if necessary. A clogged screen filter can be cleaned with a stiff bristle brush or by soaking in water
- Backwash sand filters to remove particulates and organic contaminants
- Check drip lines for leakage. A large, wet area in the field indicates a leaking drip line. Leaking lines can be repaired by splicing with an inline connector or bypassed with a short piece of feeder tube
- Use water treatment chemicals to dissolve excessive mineral deposits and remove buildup of organic contaminants in water supply lines
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