Read about this efficient method of watering your plants which not only saves water but also keeps the roots of your plants healthier.
Drip irrigation (or trickle irrigation) is a method of irrigation that saves water and fertilizer by allowing water to drip slowly to the roots of plants, either onto the soil surface or directly onto the root zone, through a network of valves, pipes, tubing, and emitters. Unlike surface and sprinkler irrigation, which involves wetting the whole soil profile, drip irrigation applies water close to plants so that only part of the soil in which the roots grow is wetted.
Drip irrigation can be traced back to the early Roman aqueduct period, when broken clay pipe distributed water along rows of plants. However, it was not until the formation of modern Israel that the concept of placing a small amount of water only at the root zones when needed, and at an exact rate, began to be developed commercially. The Israelis were faced with an inadequate water supply, often of a saline nature, and a lack of prime agricultural land.
Drip irrigation is used by farms, commercial greenhouses, and residential gardeners. It is adopted extensively in areas of acute water scarcity and especially for crops and trees such as coconuts, containerized landscape trees, grapes, bananas, ber, eggplant, citrus, strawberries, sugarcane, cotton, maize and tomatoes.
Components of Drip Irrigation:
- Water source
- Water filter
- Backflow preventer
- Pressure regulator
- Tubing adaptor
- Drip tubing
- Emitting devices (emitter or dripper)
Emitters can be spaced evenly for row crops or can also be spaced intermittently for plants such as trees, shrubs and perennials.
Keep in mind that plants can become addicted to drip irrigation, because roots will concentrate in the area where the water is available. When designing a drip system to carry water, it is important that the water be spread uniformly throughout the irrigated area so that root growth will be uniform. For example, if you are irrigating larger plants such as trees and shrubs, place emitters on two or more sides of each plant to encourage roots to grow out in all directions rather than clustering on one side.
For the same reason, it’s best to use your system to provide long, slow watering. If you turn it on for frequent, short watering, water won’t have a chance to spread far in the soil, and consequently the roots will form a tight, ball-like mass around the emitters.
Basic Operation and Maintenance:
Drip irrigation can be set to run automatically like sprinklers or can be controlled manually. Manual operation allows you to take advantage of rainfall before applying unnecessary water.
Because small amounts of water are applied slowly, drip irrigation is designed to run daily unless it rains. How long to run the drip irrigation system will depend on how much water your plants require per day and the flow rate of your emitters. Early morning is the best time to water because there will be less evaporation. Watering in the evening increases the plant’s susceptibility to disease.
Check filters and emitters on a regular basis to ensure they are functioning properly and not clogged. To prevent winter damage, take up the drip irrigation system at the end of each gardening season.
Most suppliers/manufacturers of drip irrigation systems will provide specific design, installation, operation, and maintenance specifications and guidelines that should be carefully followed.
The cost of a drip irrigation system will vary depending on the size of the area to be irrigated and the type of emitters and tubing used. However, regardless of the size of the area being irrigated there is an initial upfront cost for standard items such as the valve, pressure regulator, and backflow preventer.
Plants watered with drip systems grow more quickly and are more productive because they have all the water they need and their growth isn’t slowed by water stress. (This is especially true when drip irrigation is used in conjunction with mulch.) Also, plants watered by drip irrigation don’t end up with wet foliage from a sprinkler spray, and that can help prevent some foliage diseases such as powdery mildew.
Drip irrigation is the most efficient method of irrigating. While sprinkler systems are around 75-85% efficient, drip systems typically are 90% or higher. What that means is much less wasted water! It is also easy to install, easy to design, can be very inexpensive, and can reduce disease problems associated with high levels of moisture on some plants. Other advantages are:
- Fertilizer and nutrient loss is minimized due to localized application and reduced leaching.
- Field leveling is not necessary.
- Fields with irregular shapes are easily accommodated.
- Soil type plays less important role in frequency of irrigation.
- Soil erosion is lessened.
- Weed growth is lessened.
- Water distribution is highly uniform, controlled by output of each nozzle.
- Variation in supply can be regulated by regulating the valves and drippers