Garden & Greenhouse July 2017 Issue - Page 38

FEATURESTORY by Amanda Williams Effectively Integrating Drip Irrigation & Fertigation into Growing Operations W ith record droughts and water considered to be the next most endangered resource, more efficient methods of irrigation are evolving and finding their way into greenhouses and fields across the globe. Drip irrigation has been around for a surprisingly long time in agricultural history. It started with per- forated clay pots and pipes buried underground in China, during the first century BCE. The development of plastic drip tape systems in the mid-twentieth century became one of the most inventive and useful technologies in agriculture since the sprinklers of the 1930’s. As agriculture adapts to changes in the land, the cost of production and the availability of resources, implementing innovative systems on farms can become a huge relief. It is argued that drip irriga- tion produces greater, healthier yields and can save growers valuable time. The benefits and ease of use make a drip system a worthwhile consideration if you have not thought of introducing one before. Fertigation: Fertilizing with Drip Irrigation Fertilizer is often over-applied or insufficiently distributed in conventional methods of fertilizing. But fertilizing more precisely can trigger optimal conditions for plants during different life phases. Fertigation is a method of fertilizing that achieves a more precise application. Fertigation is quite simply, adding water-soluble fertilizer to an irrigation sys- 38 tem in order to apply exact amounts directly to the root system. While fertigation can be implemented in less effective methods of irrigation, like a sprin- kler system, a fertigation system using drip tape is much more efficient. Increased Efficiency Drip irrigation provides a direct source of hydra- tion to the root zone. The root system of the plant is therefore able to absorb higher amounts of nutri- ents. This method is used to keep a strict application regiment and to correct any nutrient deficiencies that can be analyzed through plant tissue. Another benefit of drip tape fertigation is that sometimes fertilizers can contaminate the soil, increasing the risk of soil borne disease. Directing fertilizers and amendments to the root system minimizes the levels July 2017