Posts Tagged: Irrigation
Considered among the most important agricultural innovations in the world, drip irrigation has been researched for decades. UC Cooperative Extension weed management advisor Aliasghar Montazar has taken a close look at its application in organic spinach cultivation, reported Matthew Grassi in Growing Produce.
Not only does drip irrigation use less water than irrigation with sprinklers, the slow emission of water near plant roots also diminishes the crops' susceptibility to disease. Growers believe that ongoing issues with downy mildew is at least partially caused by moisture that sprinklers leave in the plant canopy.
“Being certified organic, there is really nothing they can use as fungicide; so it is a big problem,” Montazar said. “So, we said ‘Let's try drip (irrigation) in spinach.'”
Early results are promising. Montazar has analyzed enough field data from the plots to directly correlate a four- to five-times reduction in downy mildew disease in plots grown with drip irrigation compared to sprinkler-irrigated plots.
“The other thing to note is there is a nice savings on energy as well,” Montazar said. “Another grower reported he saved $200 an acre on energy savings from getting off the sprinklers. Because with drip, there is less pressure needed, so it consumes less energy (to pump water).”
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In California, 40 percent of agriculture is still irrigated by pouring water onto farmland, a much less efficient practice that drip and overhead irrigation. But those numbers are changing, reported Matt Weiser on Water Deeply.
Weiser interviewed UC Cooperative Extension cropping systems specialist Jeff Mitchell about the water-saving potential of using overhead irrigation, a system that is popular in other parts of the nation and world, but only used on 2 percent of California farmland. Mitchell was the primary author of a research article in the current issue of California Agriculture journal, which said that water and money can be saved using overhead irrigation in production of wheat, corn, cotton, onion and broccoli.
Mitchell said California researchers are looking more closely at overhead irrigation because they anticipate future constraints on agriculture, including water and labor shortages. Additionally, the system is ideal for combining with conservation agriculture systems, which include the use of cover crops, leaving crop residue on the soil surface and reducing tillage disturbance of the soil. The combination of overhead irrigation and conservation agriculture practices reduces water use, cuts back on dust emissions, increases yield and improves the soil.
Weisner asked how overhead irrigation could be as efficient as drip, when people typically see "water spraying everywhere from these roving sprinklers high off the ground."
Mitchell said farmers use pressure regulators and a variety of nozzles on hoses hanging down from the system to deliver water at precisely the rate and location where it is needed through the season.
"So, they're not spraying water. These are low to the ground, and there are various delivery nozzle practices that can be used," Mitchell said.