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Bjorgvin Gudmundsson
February 14, 2019

Drip Irrigation and its Effect on Produce Industry

drip irrigation

Irrigation is the saving grace for farmers who are victims of uneven amounts of precipitation throughout the growing season. On top of that, only a percentage of the precipitation will be absorbed by the soil, benefiting the potential crop growth. This perpetual challenge is the reason for man-made irrigation, specifically drip irrigation methods. Depending on the extent of the uneven precipitation, crops often suffer without the assistance of irrigation to give them the nourishment they require to yield a profitable and a high-quality harvest. An abundant lack of precipitation can cause a lot of strain of crops during the most critical growth periods, so it is in the farmer’s best interest to incorporate a sufficient irrigation network to ensure the even distribution of water throughout the field every time.

When administered properly, and in a timely fashion, crops can yield a much higher quality of product as a result of a successful drip irrigation system. For certain vegetables and fruits, there are different critical periods wherein the need for proper supplementary irrigation is paramount. Being cognizant of these critical periods is the key to success when it comes to applying irrigation methods, drip irrigation in particular. Sometimes referred to as “trickle irrigation,” drip irrigation applies water to only the soil. Essentially, if the crop is grown in rows like certain vegetables or even fruit like strawberries, the water is delivered through a tube system that runs parallel with the row. When dealing with larger crops, the water distribution system is a little different. Individual emitters are carefully placed intervalley along to the tube in order to avoid water being misplaced between the crops.   

The arguments for trickle systems as opposed to sprinkler systems are quite compelling. The crux of the argument in favor of trickle irrigation is essentially this: trickle systems are more efficient because only the soil is affected by the water that’s distributed. By doing it like this, less water is lost to evaporation. Under perfect conditions and applied methodology, trickle systems are nearly 100 percent efficient. On the other side of the coin, sprinkler systems boast only a 70 percent efficiency rate, which is obviously suboptimal for maximizing growth during the critical periods for particular crops. Right now, access to water is not a major concern but that can soon change in the all-too-near future. With that in mind, water application precision will become more important as access to water becomes more limited.

The logistical benefits of trickle irrigation are evident in the granular details. For example, trickle system emitters have very slight openings to maximize water emission without wastefulness. The systems are usually self-cleansing, and every so often require an application of chlorine to rid the system of any bacteria and algae. The system is overall more efficient on all fronts. This is something farmers would do well to consider when developing their plans to irrigate their crops. More moisture means more growth. More growth means more profit.

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