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Drip Irrigation Systems Deliver A Flood of Savings

Nov 6, 2007
Heat, drought and water reductions are common in today's environment, leading commercial farmers and backyard gardeners alike to explore the benefits of drip irrigation.

Compared with conventional sprinkler irrigating, drip irrigation is efficient, economical and appears to create healthier plants. Drip irrigation is the slow, even application of water that diverts water directly to plants by low pressure distribution. This is achieved with plastic tubing that is localised straight at the root zone. It can be utilised both inside (such as in greenhouses) and outdoors.

Water is Conserved Through Drip Irrigation Systems

When applying sprinkler irrigation, a significant amount of water is lost. It runs off the earth's surface and or it evaporates before it reaches the roots of the plants, where it is most needed. On the other hand, drip irrigation slowly delivers water to where it is required at the root level. When mixed with mulch, this method of irrigating results in a huge decrease in evaporation and runoff. Drip irrigation systems can be positioned on the surface of the soil or below the soil. Farmers are discovering that if they drip irrigate during the heat of the day, their crops flourish.

Drip Irrigating Delivers Nutrients and Reduces Pets and Weeds

Soil additives and fertilizers such as nitrogen can be injected into the drip tubing on a periodic basis. In managing the application of required nutrients and fertilizers through injection into drip irrigation systems, research is revealing that crop production yields are higher and healthier.

Growers have observed that when they are using drip irrigation systems, there are fewer pests to contend with. There are also reductions in weeds since water is moving only to where it is needed, rather than being spread across the center of rows where crops are not planted. This results in lower pesticide and weedkiller use, as well as the labor called for in applying chemical applications.

Initial Costs May Be High

Contemporary drip irrigation systems have evolved beyond home use by backyard gardeners and are becoming progressively popular on row crops. While the initial cost ininstalling irrigation lines, pumps and filters can be steep for commercial farmers, the long-run cost is less with lower labor, bugs, weeds and water loss.

Commercial growers typically divert their water from irrigation ditches or well water to the drip irrigation delivery system. They use a pump and filtration system to move the water from its source to the irrigation piping. Not only is there an expensive initial cost outlay, but the process of installing the drip irrigation system is expensive. Some have calculated that the new systems cost roughly $2000 per acre.

Nonetheless, there is an upside. Growers are discovering up to a 50% gain in production when they are using drip irrigation. And of course, they are conserving water which is a big benefit in today's world of drought and water reduction requirements.

Aid for Farmers

Some government aid may be available through the National Soil Conservation Service which was founded in 1936. The NSCS is organized by districts throughout the counties and states and is managed by the United States Department of Agriculture. Conservation program grants and consulting services are available on the NSCS internet site or through its local chapters.


Drought is anticipated to be a national problem over the forthcoming years. Backyard gardeners and commercial growers alike may want to explore drip irrigation as a means to reduce costs and stay in business.
About the Author
Urbain Beck is a freelance writer who has been published in a number of online and offline publications. Discover how a 400-acre chile farm in New Mexico shifted from traditional irrigation to drip irrigation systems at http://www.western-water.com .
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