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What is the difference between Sprinkler Irrigation and Drip Irrigation?

Irrigation is an artificial method of ensuring plants get enough water through pipes, ditches, drips, sprinklers etc. The main aim of using irrigation is to curb inadequate rainfall, maintain the landscape and help crop growth. Thus, it’s a very critical practice in farming.

Many farmers in Kenya however, find it hard when it comes to choosing a system that better suits them. The two common systems are sprinkler and drip.

Drip Irrigation

This is a system that provides water directly at the root zone of the plant. Water is controlled and drips slowly on the plants roots exactly where it is require thus saving a lot of water. Through drip system, water is saved up to 50%. Through this system, water application is frequent ensuring the ideal moisture level is maintained at all times.

Advantages of Drip System

  • Water is used at maximum level.
  • Fertilizer/nutrient loss is minimized as water is applied locally and leaching is reduced
  • No water being available to weeds.
  • Maximum crop yield.
  • High efficiency in the use of  fertilizers.
  • Less weed growth and restricts population of potential hosts.
  • Low labour and relatively low operation cost.
  • No soil erosion.
  • Improved infiltration in soil of low intake.
  • Ready adjustment to sophisticated automatic control.
  • No runoff of fertilizers into ground water.
  • Less evaporation losses of water as compared to surface irrigation.
  • Improves seed germination.
  • Decreased to tillage operations.

Management of green house is paramount. Why?

Disadvantages of Drip

In spite of the fact that drip has so many potential benefits , they’re a certain limitation also, there are as follow:

  • Sensitivity to clogging
  • Moisture distribution problem
  • Salinity hazards
  • High cost compared to furrow.
  • High skill is required for design, install and operation

Sprinkler Irrigation

Sprinkler is a type of pressurized irrigation that consists of applying water to the soil surface using mechanical and hydraulic devices that simulate natural rainfall. It is a method by which water is distributed from overhead by high-pressure sprinklers, sprays or guns mounted on risers or moving platforms.

Advantages of Sprinkler System

  • Expansive land leveling is not required.
  • Water saving intensity can be changed in accordance with the infiltration capacity of soil.
  • High efficiency due to uniform water distribution.
  • No special skills trained personal can operate the system reasonably well.
  • Ease and uniform application of fertilizers and pesticides through irrigation system.
  • Possibility of applying minute quantity of water for germination and other irrigation systems.
  • Frequent and light irrigation possible giving better response from the crops.
  • Increase in yield and quality, early ripening, water conservation and alternative value of specific period saving of labor, machinery, fertilizer and pesticides.
  • Soil moisture is maintained at optimum level by sprinkler and 20 higher yields are obtained of crops and the quality of other crops is also good.

Shade nets and why they are important in today’s farming

Disadvantages of Sprinkler System

  • Higher initial cost.
  • High and continuous energy requirement for operation.
  • Under high wind condition and high temperature distribution and application efficiency is poor.
  • Highly saline water 7mm hos/cm causes leaf burning when temperature higher than 95 F.
  • When lands have been already leveled and developed for surface or other irrigation methods sprinkler irrigation is not so economical.
  • Loss of water due to evaporation from the area during irrigation.
  • Above canopy sprinkling may cause washing of spray, materials and aggravate the incidence of pests and diseases.

The above information is only meant to make you make better decisions.

 

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Water storage can help farmers during dry seasons

water storage

Farmers in Kenya are at times hindered from daily activities due to lack of enough water. However, with Kenya being well geographically placed with quite some rain during the season, Kenyans can store water and use it when it is dry.

Kenya’s per capita water is less than 600 cubic metres, which is below the global threshold of 1,000, making it one of the chronically water-scarce nations. Kenya’s water problem is, thought-provoking: if millions are not threatened by severe drought, they are fighting to remain afloat amid raging floods. Water scarcity is one of the major challenges to sustainable food production the world over, and climate change experts warn that it will only get worse as the world’s population continues rising. But local farmers can alleviate this situation by investing in water harvesting technologies and irrigation.

In Kenya, reservoirs and rock pools are common water storage facilities in homes or farms. A number of people use these methods of water storage to either harvest or store water which is often used either in normal home operations or in farms.

The urge to ensure there is adequate water that can push families into cluttering the garden with many unsightly tanks. Although the sight of one or two overhead tanks in the garden can be forgiven, it’s important to find a better way to place the water storage systems in the compound without interfering with the landscaping of the surrounding farm.

Also Read: Why You should shift gears to Hass avocado and Macadamia farming

Ways Of Storing Water

There are a number of options that you can explore to ensure you collect and store water depending on the space available and the water requirement for one’s home or farm. For instance, a home with high dependency on rain water due to perennial water shortage may deem it necessary to have several huge underground tanks. On the other hand, a small family may only settle for an overhead tank with a capacity of 10,000 litres, rather than digging a dam or building a rock pool in their property.

The type of water storage system can only be settled on after the family has identified its water needs. This helps one know the capacity of water storage facility needed. After which, one can choose among the available options.

However, an underground tank is one of the best choices for individuals keen on maintaining a proper manicured garden in their compound. The tank is concealed below the garden surface and is constructed using concrete. Drainage systems are put in place to trap water and guide it to the tank below. Underground tanks are often used by people practicing rain water harvesting.

Also Read: Why buy vegetables while you can have your own bag garden?

After constructing the tank, grass and trees are grown on the surface, to give the garden a flawless look.  Other than concrete, bricks can also be used to construct the underground tank that can be as big as one may wish. In case you are not sure about how to go about it, get help from experts on rain water harvesting. Landscapers can also assist homeowners to design the garden, as well as recommend the best trees or plants to be grown on the surface.

Water tanks can be camouflaged by either being placed on a tower that is raised above the ground. If it’s not too high up, it can have creeping plants grown around the tank or made to resemble the garden pattern or design.

A water tank with a pattern similar to the garden layout or landscape is creative and attractive. It’s pleasant to the eye and adds value to the garden. The design can be done according to one’s taste and preference.

It is paramount to increase investment in terms of water storage techniques, including storing groundwater during wet season, harvesting rainwater and conserving soil moisture through storing water in the ground.

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Shade nets and why they are important in today’s farming

Shade nets are made from lightweight knitted polythene fabric that provides people and plants with protection from the sun. Shade cloth fabric is available in densities ranging from 50% to 90% to suit the unique needs of different types of plants, flowers and crops. It can be used with greenhouses, hoop structures and in field applications. Additional uses include fences, windscreens and privacy barriers. Shade material is rot and mildew resistant, does not become brittle and is water permeable. It offers superior ventilation, improves light diffusion and keeps greenhouses cooler. As a result, shade cloth can help to lower energy costs by reducing the need to run fans as often in the warmer months. Installing shade net is quick and easy as is taking it down during the off-peak season.

Read: Reasons Why You Should Start an Agribusiness in Kenya Today

Reflective shade and how is it beneficial in a greenhouse

Reflective shade is beneficial since it helps to create an optimum growing climate because it reflects the sun’s radiation rather than absorbing it. It assists in controlling the light, temperature and humidity balance. Reflective shade screens are also energy-saving. Excellent climate characteristics include low daytime temperature due to maximum reflection and high energy savings at night, which keeps crop temperature close to ambient.

Difference between standard shade net and reflective shade nets

Standard shade net is an affordable, extremely durable means of protecting plants and crops from direct sunlight. Shade net is placed on the exterior roof of a greenhouse, cold frame or high tunnel where it blocks a percentage of light from penetrating the building, hence keeping plants more comfortable. This type of shade material is appropriate for general gardening, farming and greenhouse applications and is widely used in the commercial farming and gardening industry.

Read: How Many Years Will It Take To Get Returns On Invested Capital Under Hass Avocado Farming

Recommended shade Net Material to use

Shade nets are of various materials and what to use depends on the type of your crop. The shade materials help in protecting plants, pets, livestock and people from direct sunlight and also works as a windscreen. Depending on the climatic conditions also, growers use 50% and 60% density in colder areas while in hotter areas, they use 70% to 80%. Many farmers find that using a high-density shade on roofs and a lower density shade on walls is a good method for creating ideal shade conditions. Farmers should check with their local Agricultural Extension office to determine the shade cloth density that is appropriate for both the climate and plant variety.

Why shade percentage is important

The density of the shade is determined by the amount of the light blocked by the shade. For instance, the definition of 80% shade is that only 20% of light passes through it. Vegetables require a shade percentage of between 30 and 50 %.

Read: How to write a business plan for your agribusiness venture/dairy farming/horticultural farming

Advantages of shade net:

  • It is easy to wash
  • Do not get Decay
  • Nets are easy to carry and easy to install
  • Easy to relocate
  • A shade percentage of 30-50% is ideal for vegetables and flowers.
  • They are ideal for gardens, plant nurseries, home terrace gardening.
  • Minimizes plant hassle and wind pressures to avoid damage to plants, enhances photosynthesis to stimulate plant growth.
  • Conserves water
  • Protects plants from pests and diseases

If you can afford green houses, think shade nets and you will save yourself a fortune.

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As A Farmer You Can Control Pests Through Shade Nets

Just like human beings control spread of Malaria through usage of nets, the same protection mechanism applies to plants, which, like human beings are not only exposed to diseases transmitted by insects, but also to direct damages as many pests feed on them. Farmers know the seriousness of this which can lead to total losses.

What is Shade Net?

A shade Net is a family of clear netting products developed for use in horticulture (vegetables, fruit and ornamentals). Shade Net was developed to control pests with the aim to significantly reduce quantities of pesticides. Shade Net products provide farmers with affordable alternatives to generally expensive conventional protected cultivation in greenhouses or tunnels.

Shade nets is a framed structure that partially control atmosphere and environments by reducing light intensity and effective heat during day time to crop grown under it. Hence round the year seasonal and off-season cultivation is possible.

Shade net is a crucial equipment for farming out here who want to venture into tin cultivation of flower plants, foliage plants, medicinal and aromatic plant, vegetables and spices as well as raising nurseries of fruits and vegetables. Shade nets also protect against pest attack and natural weather disturbances such as wind, rain, hail, frost, snow, bird and insect.

Read: What you require while establishing successful pig farming

Shade Nets are a cost-effective and safe way to protect crops from caterpillars and leaf miners in particular as well as birds and heavy rain. Shade Net act as physical barriers that deny pests (Lepidoptera and leaf miners) access to the crop, delay other pest infestation (white flies, aphids) and offer protection against cold, wind, hailstones and heavy rains. Shade Net is not only recommended for cabbage and French beans. Shade Nets are also having a good effect on tomato crops and on the production of vegetable/fruit seedlings in the nursery.

Read: Best Practices And What To Consider Before Farming Tomatoes

Shade nets help in creating favorable micro environment for production of vermin compost which plays a major role in improving growth and yield of different field crops, vegetables and fruit crops.

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The Most Cost-Effective Greenhouse Which Every Farmer Can Construct

Green houses are meant to help the farmer make more money, its therefore very crucial for the farmer to know how to manage the project financially. You should be aware about what you will be expected to pay. Some suppliers will quote the price of the green house alone leaving out other essentials like water tank, drip lines and seeds; other will quote the total cost inclusive of all those packages. As a farmer who is after money you should go for the supplier who is giving a complete quote in order to avoid hidden cost and the cost of purchasing the rest of the equipment’s needed. The supplier should give the details of installation, whether they charge the installation or they give the after services for free. In case of new and inexperienced farmers consider technical support before making the final choice of the supplier. Some suppliers will offer the structure and refer you to other suppliers where you will get the materials at an affordable price.

The structure

Structure of the green house is very important this will include details like the height and the length, make sure you study the demonstration or the showroom. The type of the crop you grow will dictate the size of the greenhouse, like in the case of tomatoes there are those which grow upwards.

Details of the Farm

Factors like the size of the farm and the soil type should be considered before, most greenhouses come with water tanks, the farmer should work out ways of pumping the water to the tank, try to minimize the cost by avoiding using fuel to pump water for this will reduce the profits. The type of the soil can be reduced by using fertilizer or manure which should be added before planting, it is good to do soil testing in order to get the details of soil type, testing of soils is done by us at an affordable price.

 

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How to establish the type of irrigation needed in your farm

Irrigation is the artificial application of water to land for the purpose of agricultural production. Effective irrigation will influence the entire growth process from seedbed preparation, germination, root growth, nutrient utilisation, plant growth and regrowth, yield and quality.

The key to maximising irrigation efforts is uniformity. The producer has a lot of control over how much water to supply and when to apply it but the irrigation system determines uniformity. Deciding which irrigation systems is best for your operation requires a knowledge of equipment, system design, plant species, growth stage, root structure, soil composition, and land formation. Irrigation systems should encourage plant growth while minimising salt imbalances, leaf burns, soil erosion, and water loss. Losses of water will occur due to evaporation, wind drift, run-off and water (and nutrients) sinking deep below the root zone.

Proper irrigation management takes careful consideration and vigilant observation.

Also Read: How well-planned are you for tree fruit farming this season?

Irrigation and its Value

Irrigation allows primary producers,

  • to grow more pastures and crops
  • to have more flexibility in their systems/operations as the ability to access water at times when it would otherwise be hard to achieve good plant growth (due to a deficit in soil moisture) is imperative. Producers can then achieve higher yields and meet market/seasonal demands especially if rainfall events do no occur.
  • to produce higher quality crops/pastures as water stress can dramatically impact on the quality of farm produce
  • to lengthen the growing season (or in starting the season at an earlier time)
  • to have ‘insurance’ against seasonal variability and drought.
  • to stock more animals per hectare and practice tighter grazing management due to the reliability of pasture supply throughout the season
  • to maximise benefits of fertiliser applications. Fertilisers need to be ‘watered into’ the ground in order to best facilitate plant growth.
  • to use areas that would otherwise be ‘less productive’. Irrigation can allow farmers to open up areas of their farms where it would otherwise be ‘too dry’ to grow pasture/crops. This also gives them the capability to carry more stock or to conserve more feed.
  • to take advantage of market incentives for unseasonal production
  • to have less reliance on supplementary feeding (grain, hay) in grazing operations due to the more consistent supply & quality of pastures grown under irrigation
  • to improve the capital value of their property. Since irrigated land can potentially support higher crops, pasture and animal production, it is considered more valuable. The value of the property is also related to the water licensing agreements or ‘water right’.
  • to cost save/obtain greater returns. The cost benefits from the more effective use of fertilisers and greater financial benefits as a result of more effective agricultural productivity (both quality and quantity) and for ‘out of season’ production are likely.

Choosing an irrigation system 

There is a huge diversity in the types of irrigation technologies/systems used, which is attributable to,

  • Variations in soil types
  • Varying topography of the land
  • Availability of power sources
  • Availability of water
  • Sources of water
  • The period of time when the system was installed
  • The size of the area being irrigated
  • On farm water storage capacity
  • Availability of labour/financial resources

Source of irrigation water

The vast majority of irrigation water use is pumped directly from a water source (river, creek, channel, drag line, hole, dam or bore).

Irrigation scheduling

Irrigation scheduling is the process by which an irrigator determines the timing and quantity of water to be applied to the crop/pasture. The challenge is to estimate crop water requirements for different growth stages and climatic conditions.

To avoid over or under watering, it is important to know how much water is available to the plant, and how efficiently the plant can use it. The methods available to measure this include: (i) plant observation, (ii) feel and appearance of the soil, (iii) using soil moisture monitoring devices; or (iv) estimating available water from weather data.

Problems

While irrigation has provided a number of important benefits the potential drawbacks of over/under watering include,

Under-watering

  • Loss in market value through yield reduction
  • Reduction in fruit size and quality

Over-watering

  • Unwanted vegetative growth
  • Losses of valuable water to the watertable
  • Irrigation water travelling over soil can cause erosion. The excessive displacement of the top soil can also affect soil fertility (and hence crop yields), it may also clog drainage ditches and streams (silting), harm aquatic habitats, foul waters used for recreational activities, and increases the need for water treatments.
  • Irrigation can cause pesticides, pathogens and weeds to spread during irrigation
  • Cause runoff
  • Increased operational costs (labour, pumping, cost of water)
  • Leaching of nutrients (eg. salt, phosphorus) may lead to algal growth, salinity an nitrate build ups (poisoning) elsewhere in the catchment
  • Downgraded product quality and reduced yield.
  • Higher operational costs for the producer (hence, reduced profits)
  • Pressue on water resources with the Increasing demand for water use by urban dwellers

Read Also: Success on bee keeping this is what you need to know

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Here Are The Things To Consider When Establishing Drip Irrigation In Your Farm

Drip irrigation can boost crop production by way of more than 30% at the same time as the use of 30 to 50% much less water than a sprinkler. It can also save you defects in fruits and greens while saving you time. Right here are our 5 concerns for planning a drip irrigation system for huge-scale or small market farmers.

  • Determine the quality of your water supply for your drip irrigation. Factors can also include such things as pond water source that will require installation of a filtering machine or an adjustment of the water PH, depending on your plants. Familiarize yourself with the elevation of the plot/field you plan to irrigate, as it will determine how you size the system and adjust water flow. A 2.3-foot change in elevation, for instance, results in a gain of 1 pound of water pressure going downhill, or loss of 1 pound of pressure going uphill, requiring pressure compensation within the system on steep slopes. Topography, water flow rate and distance also will affect the size of pipes you’ll need.

Read: Success on bee keeping this is what you need to know

  • Will you automate your drip system? Depending on the complexity and size of the system, you may need to split watering times between different zones to water spaces incrementally, based on the output of your pump or the water needs of different crops. Automation ensures consistency in soil moisture and in flow, versus turning the water on and off at irregular intervals. The latter is important if you use the drip system to fertilize.
  • Think ahead. As plants mature, they require more water, which is especially important if you are irrigating perennial fruit crops. Build the system with the capacity to supply the optimum amount of water plants will need at maturity. If your irrigation water comes from the same well your home uses, the pressure tank may need to be upsized to reduce pump cycling and possible pump burnout. Or, you can irrigate at night when family water use is minimal.
  • Permit for expansion whilst putting in your device. For systems 1 and1/2 acre or larger, scaling for expansion up front will save money, as completely mounted pipes need to be buried underneath the frost line and the value of trenching in pipelines is high-priced. Customize your pipes to accommodate expansion as you increase your operations. Doubling the pipe diameter will quadruple the ability water float rate.

Read: Successful fish farming in Kenya

Drip irrigation is not a set-and-neglect-it solution. Systems need to be checked each day as emitters might also plug and rodents may additionally cause damage. The system additionally need to be drained to winterize it.

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Management of green house is paramount. Why?

Good greenhouse management is critical for the proficiency and health of the farm. It might appear to be straightforward — put a seed in a tray with soil, include water, and voila, there are youthful plants to transplant into the field. In writing, truly, it’s as simple as that. Be that as it may, ideal air temperature and water delivery are essential for the advancement of seedlings. Additionally, hidden in the air all around us, in the water leaving a hose, and in the ground inside a greenhouse, there are numerous baffling little living things prepared to wreak destruction on youthful plants. The three most imperative nursery management practices are ideal temperature control, consistent air circulation and appropriate moisture delivery.

Optimal Temperature Control

Air and soil temperature are generally known to be critical for seed germination, yet the details for each kind of seed are so extraordinary it can be difficult to oversee. For example, solanums (tomatoes, eggplant, and so forth) require an ideal soil temperature of around 90 degrees while spinach needs an ideal soil temperature of 70 degrees. For tomatoes, if the temperature is too low, the seeds will stay lethargic; for spinach, soil temperature that is too high can cause thermo-lethargy, averting germination.

So how can one deal with the soil temperatures per specific crops? For the most part keeping up the temperature of a nursery in the 70-80 degree range is best for all crops. Appropriate ventilation and air dissemination help keep up that temperature in warm months. Making sure to open the greenhouse before it’s excessively hot and shutting it before it’s cool (to keep the warmth in) are imperative practices. In the winter months, a few people use electric or propane radiators to keep up warm temperatures. In hot atmospheres, shade fabric can be hung over a greenhouse to keep the temperature down if necessary. Overseeing soil temps for various cropss should be done using area particular warming mats to raise the soil temperature or utilizing little shade structures to keep flats cooler on your greenhouse tables.

All together for the greater part of this to work, keep in mind to use quality soil and surrounding air thermometers. On the off chance that assets are accessible, buying a framework that is programmed, where the ventilation is guided straightforwardly into your thermometer, can make life considerably less demanding. Make sure to keep monitoring your greenhouse. Greenhouses are to a great degree fastidious and the slightest changes in sunlight and wind, or technological troubles can leave your greenhouse very dry and seedlings shriveled or dead.

Air Circulation

To help keep up temperature and prevent pests of the insect or fungal kingdoms, proper air flow is urgent. A greenhouse ventilation framework ought to be comprised of low, side-wall and end-wall vents to permit cool air in, and edge vents to enable the hot air to debilitate out. Fans at the end walls and in the edge are essential to circle the air around the greenhouse and in addition make a slight  breeze easily get through the plants, keeping spores and insects from hanging out on small starts. Air circulation is also very vital in relieving abundance moistness in the greenhouse that molds and “damping off” organisms love. “Damping off” living beings are fungal pathogens.

Read: make money through passion fruit farming

Proper Moisture Delivery

Maybe the most imperative piece of germinating a seed is water. For some, reasons, observing the moisture levels of your soil media is critical and the ideal moisture required for germination may not be natural. Seeds require steady moisture to germinate, however they don’t require profound watering. Seeds ought to be watered all the time sufficiently only to keep up a shallow and high moisture content in the upper part of the soil media where the seed lies. Permitting the extremely top soils to dry down once in a while is critical in forestalling soil borne pathogens.

Once the seed has sprouted and developed, it is critical to start incorporating a consistent wet-dry swing in your media to both advance dry season resilience for their opportunity in the field and avert “damping off” organisms from growing. As discussed, “damping off” organisms are fungal pathogens that occupy the soil surface of your seedling flass and trays frequently shaping a green hard covering. These living organisms can influence the stems of seedlings to decay and the plants at last die.

The depth of the watering is also an incredibly important aspect of moisture management practices in the greenhouse. Once the seedlings begin to grow, the deeper their roots are. Incorporating longer and deeper waterings less frequently gives the plants the needed wet-dry swing (especially on the soil surface) but also promotes good root growth and drought tolerance.

Utilizing these ideal practices will give you beautiful seedlings that will have a greater success rate in the field.

Read: Different Types Of Poultry Farming And Their Products

 

 

 

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When to Use Sprinkler Irrigation

Sprinkler Irrigation is a way for applying irrigation water which is like precipitation. Water is conveyed through a system of pipes for the most part by pumping. It is then showered into the air and irrigated into the whole soil surface through splash heads with the goal that it separates into little water drops which fall to the ground.

Sprinklers provide effective coverage from small to large-scale regions and are best suit for use on a wide range of properties. It is also versatile to about every single irrigable soil since sprinklers are accessible in an extensive variety of discharge limit.

Best Suited Crops

Sprinkler water system is suited for most row, field and tree crops and water can be splashed over or under the harvest shade. In any case, substantial sprinklers are not prescribed for water system of fragile yields, for example, lettuce in light of the fact that the extensive water drops delivered by the sprinklers may harm the product.

Appropriate slants

Sprinkler water system is versatile to any farmable incline, regardless of whether uniform or undulating. The parallel channels providing water to the sprinklers ought to dependably be laid out along the land shape at whatever point conceivable. This will limit the weight changes at the sprinklers and give a uniform water system.

 

Read: 11 Ways to Succeed In Agri-Business Even After Failing Several Times In The Past

Suitable soils

Sprinklers are best suited to sandy soils with high infiltration rates although they are adaptable to most soils. The average application rate from the sprinklers (in mm/hour) is always chosen to be less than the basic infiltration rate of the soil so that surface ponding and runoff can be avoided.

Sprinklers are not suitable for soils which easily form a crust. If sprinkler irrigation is the only method available, then light fine sprays should be used. The larger sprinklers producing larger water droplets are to be avoided.

Read: Cabbage Growing In Kenya: All You Should Know

Suitable irrigation water

A decent clean supply of water, free of suspended sediments, is required to keep away from issues of sprinkler spout blockage and ruining the product by covering it with residue.

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Choosing an Irrigation System For your Fruit Farm

Tree fruit growers may use two types of irrigation systems: solid set sprinklers and drip. Both irrigation systems have their own advantages and disadvantages for a given application. Once a particular type of irrigation system is chosen, an irrigation equipment dealer or a qualified agricultural officer can help you customize it for the particular orchard block and fruit crop.

Solid Set Sprinklers

With this system, laterals are buried in the tree rows with a riser and impact sprinkler exposed above ground. These systems are full coverage systems that apply water to the entire tree and orchard floor. The initial investment cost of this system is high because of the cost of trenching and placement of the PVC laterals and sprinkler heads. Annual operating costs are high because of pumping costs.

Related content: Why Hass Avocado is the new Cash Crop

Drip Irrigation

Drip irrigation uses polyethylene laterals with emitters to deliver water directly to individual trees. In practice, only about 40-50% of the orchard floor will be wetted. With drip irrigation the PVC submain and main water supply are usually buried to facilitate machinery operations. These systems are easily adapted to chemigation and because they do not wet the entire tree, they facilitate conventional pesticide applications.

Scheduling Irrigation

Once you have acquired an irrigation system, you must decide when to irrigate, how much water to apply, and how you will use and maintain the equipment. Irrigation systems must be designed to ensure that both the water supply and the irrigation system can meet peak demand.

Plant root depth, canopy development, growth habits, and nutrient requirements in a given climate largely determine the irrigation schedule. Soil-infiltration characteristics determine maximum water application rates. Actual water use will vary daily throughout the season, so growers must develop a method for ensuring that the crop has a sufficient amount of water available.

Several methods are used to determine when to irrigate, and some of these methods are more reliable than others. By the time plants show signs of water deficiency, such as wilting, plants have been stressed and their growth slowed. Irrigation at this point may save the crop, but production already has been limited.

The appearance of the soil after being squeezed by hand can be used to estimate water content. A common mistake is to feel the soil on the surface rather than around the root tips, where most moisture is taken up. You can avoid this problem by using a soil probe to sample soil in the crop root zone.

Plant water demand also can be estimated daily (based on crop development and climate conditions) and then compared to the soil’s water-holding capacity. Irrigation should begin when the stored soil moisture approaches 50 percent of the available capacity or the plants will become stressed. Moisture content should be measured periodically to verify water use and moisture depletion estimates. With experience, this water budget method can be quite reliable and can be used to predict when irrigation should begin.

The irrigation schedule can account for average weekly precipitation and can help you plan irrigation to apply the difference. However, rainfall amounts are unpredictable, so this method can lead to deficits or excesses that can limit crop performance. For small-fruit crops, growers may wish to raise the water demand to 2 inches per week during fruit development, especially on well-drained soils.

Related Content: How to establish grafted purple passion Fruits Orchard

Equipment Use and Maintenance

Appropriate use and maintenance of irrigation equipment, both during the irrigation season and while in storage, will increase its life span and reduce operating and maintenance costs. Irrigation equipment dealers can provide you with guidelines for operating and caring for your equipment.

The pumping unit and control head will require the most maintenance in terms of lubrication, cleaning, and protection from dirt, moisture, freezing, and animals. Leaking pump seals and pipe gaskets should be replaced when necessary. Sprinkler nozzles that have worn more than 1⁄16 inch larger than specified or emitters that are clogged should be replaced. Mains and laterals, particularly in trickle systems, should be flushed periodically to remove buildup of precipitates and sediment. Equipment used in freezing weather must be properly lubricated and should be self-draining. Careful use and continued maintenance of irrigation equipment will help ensure many years of trouble-free performance.

For more information about tree fruit irrigation, visit our offices or give us a call.

Also book your tree fruit seedlings today.