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Drip your way to vegetable production success

I will never again grow anything without drip irrigation. Without drip, it will waste water and the plants will be more prone to disease. We need to maximise potential by being as efficient as possible in order to make a profit.” - Meir Messica, vegetable farmer, Israel.

Whether open-field vegetable production is the main farming activity, or a secondary farming activity aimed at ensuring active cash flow, efficiency is key to profitability. Irrigation is one of several aspects that will contribute to success in vegetable fields, if efficient irrigation can be ensured.

The drive for efficient irrigation calls for precision irrigation practices. Precision irrigation is to deliver the correct amount of food and water to the plant at the correct time and in the right place as efficiently as possible. It provides both the control and the flexibility needed to ensure that each plant receives the exact amount of water and fertiliser it needs. This will maintain balance between vegetative growth and productivity, an extremely important aspect of vegetable production.

 Although certain irrigation systems offer higher water-use efficiency than other systems, a certain level of precision irrigation can be achieved with any irrigation system. The key is to install the right irrigation system for the circumstances and to manage this system correctly. This will ensure the highest possible efficiency relevant to resources and circumstances.

Furthermore, it is important to know the soil and other impacting factors to make the correct scheduling decisions and ensure highly efficient water use. Calculations are necessary to determine the necessary active irrigation hours, but these hours must be scheduled in the most efficient way possible based on knowledge of the soil and how water moves through it. Remember the goal – to not irrigate past the active root zone, while ensuring sufficient water availability. Will it be better to have shorter and more frequent irrigation sessions, or longer and less frequent sessions? Knowing how long it takes for the active root zone to be filled and how fast water extraction takes place, easy to decide.

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Vegetables and drip irrigation

Drip irrigation has proven itself to be the most efficient irrigation method and is suitable to most crops. More and more vegetable farmers are turning to this method of irrigation to increase vegetable yield quality and quantity. It may, however, seem like a too advanced solution for a short-term cash crop. The fact is that there are drip irrigation solutions perfectly suited to seasonal crops and single or limited season implementation.

Benefits of drip irrigation on vegetable crops include:

  • optimal root zone management;
  • lower water and fertilizer use;
  • access to the root zone despite groundcovers;
  • lower risk of crop diseases;
  • full utilisation of available land;
  • optimal growth in challenging soil;
  • minimised evaporation loss;
  • ability to better manage plant nutrition through fertigation.

Dripper and dripline selection take into account a variety of factors, each of which is a tribute that the irrigation designer or farmer must deem necessary for the crop and circumstances or not. The purpose is to maintain a balance between dripper cost and performance. What does the crop need and what do the circumstances allow? Thin wall drip lines, for example, are specifically aimed to be used for one to three seasons on vegetables and certain field cash crops. With the right irrigation equipment, necessary knowledge, correct calculations and involving the right experts, the farmer can make an informed decision to ensure that the crop receives optimal irrigation while he or she makes extremely efficient use of the available water.

Click here to read about precision vegetable irrigation.

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