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Water & Irrigation Systems for Market Farming


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Luke Freeman, University of Arkansas
Oklahoma Beginning Farmer & Rancher Program 2013
Horticulture #2: May 11

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Water & Irrigation Systems for Market Farming

  1. 1. Water & IrrigationSystems for Market FarmingLuke Freeman, University of ArkansasBeginning Farmer Workshop, May 11, 2013Kerr Center for Sustainable Agriculture
  2. 2. Irrigation Systems at the Kerr Center
  3. 3. Sustainable SystemManagementConserving moisture on the farm1. Organic Matter – hold more moisture2. Mulch – trap moisture3. Cover Cropping – build organic matter4. Reduced Tillage – conserve moisture5. Soil Structure – hold moisture in soil6. Farm Landscape – capture moisture
  4. 4. MulchTrap moisture and feed soil biology
  5. 5. Setting Up an Irrigation System1. Water Source 2. Pumping System3. Filtration System 4. Distribution System
  6. 6. Water Source• Depends on location, equipment, needs• Access to 1.5” water/acre/week during Summer and0.75” water/acre/week during Spring and Fall• 1 acre inch = 27,200 gal = 11 hours at 40 gpm1. City or Rural Water—expensive but safe and easy– Chlorine or Chloramine may be a problem2. Ground Water—test for contamination and filter3. Surface Water—test for contamination and filter– Pond, River, or Creek
  7. 7. Choosing Your Irrigation System• Understand your crop needs and climate– Winds and high temp in SE Oklahoma limit our use ofsprinkler irrigation– Alabama Extension Publication (in your resources)Drip or SprinklerIrrigation?
  8. 8. Irrigation Method
  9. 9. Drip IrrigationWhat is drip?
  10. 10. Drip Irrigation—Advantages1. Reduced water use– 25-50% water used by sprinklers2. Less foliar disease– foliage stays dry, no soil splash3. Reduced weed pressure– no water to stimulate weed growth4. Customizable to fit your scale—if using rows5. Does not require high pressure– needs 20-25 psi at field entrance and 10 psi at tape6. Easily automated—with irrigation timer7. Can be used with plastic mulch
  11. 11. Drip Irrigation—Disadvantages1. Economic investment– $500-1200/acre, plus maintenance and replacement2. Frequent maintenance– easily cut or damaged by tools, repair leaks regularly3. Can get in the way– must work around or move drip tape when using tools4. Need filtered water– must use 200-mesh screen or risk clogging emitters5. Set emitter spacing—match to plant spacing6. Disposal—labor and cost7. End of season clean up– must be removed from field and stored
  12. 12. Sprinkler IrrigationLawnSprinklersImpulseSprinklersMicroSprinklers
  13. 13. Sprinkler Irrigation—Advantages1. Wets more of root zone– Greater width of soil being irrigated allowsroot to branch out farther2. Stimulation and washing of leaves– Beneficial to some crops, controls aphids3. Easier to irrigate large areas4. Less timely set-up5. Lower investment cost6. Less maintenance cost
  14. 14. Sprinkler Irrigation—Disadvantages1. Uses more water– Evaporation loss and wind loss2. Less precise wetting pattern– Wetting pattern can be thrown off by wind3. Uneven distribution of water4. More likely to encourage disease– Damp foliage and soil splash5. Greater pressure requirement– Need 50-80 psi
  15. 15. Setting Up a Drip Irrigation SystemDripWorks.comUniversity of FloridaPublication HS1144
  16. 16. Drip Irrigation Requirements1. High Quality Water– Filtered to remove particulate matter, 200-mesh screen or sand filter2. Pressure Control– 20-25 psi entering the field– 10 psi through drip tape3. Labor– Laying out drip tape in Spring– Repairing lines, removing at end of season
  17. 17. Drip Irrigation LayoutCreate a layout plan to estimate equipment needsZone1Zone2Length of drip tape?Row spacing?Rows per field?Mainline/HeaderSecondaryHeadersShut-Off Valves
  18. 18. Drip Tape EquipmentCost: $500 - $1,200 per acre (U Florida Publication)Peaceful Valley Farm SupplyDiagrams in catalog, clear listingDrip WorksGood pricing, customer supportOther suppliers on Kerr Center handout
  19. 19. Drip Tape Set-Up“Y” Connectoror BallValveTimerOrbit Digital and SingleDial Water Timer, $40Backflow PreventerRequired wheninjecting fertilizerFlushable FilterAt least 200 meshPressure Regulator10 psiFertilizer InjectoroptionalConnectorto HeaderBrass AdapterTo connect twomale endsHose SaverUse where neededto relieve tensionon connections
  20. 20. Poly Tubing1/2 or 3/4 inch$75 - $85 per1,000 ft• Order tubing and fittings from samesupplier, ensure they match• Use In-Line Valves to control zonesindependently• “Easy Loc” or “Power-Loc” fittingsIn-Line Valve Tee ConnectorFemaleStarterFittingFigure 8 ClosureDrip Header
  21. 21. Connecting Drip Tape to Header1/4” BarbedDrip TapeConnector1/4” Barb withValveHolePunchHole PunchDemo
  22. 22. Drip Tape• Brands: T-Tape or Chapin– $200 for 7,500 ft• Thickness– 5 min for 1 year use– 8 to 10 mil for 2-5 years (recommended)• Emitter Spacing– 6, 8, 12 inch– Match to crop spacing
  23. 23. Laying Out Drip Tape• Rolling Out Drip Tape– Use rebar propped on cinderblocksor jack stands• Ending a line of drip tape– Line should be no longer than 350’,check with supplier– Purchased “Grip Sleeve Ends,”– DIY sleeve—Demo• Securing line of drip tape– Fabric staple on end will secure 100 ft– Landscape staple every 30’– Bury drip tape “Grip Sleeve End” $10for 50
  24. 24. Repairing Drip Tape1. Electrical Tape—for small holes– Wrap tape around line while irrigation on2. Tape Coupler—for large holes and tears– Replace line after 3 couplers used, $0.57 each
  25. 25. Removing Drip Tape• Remove from field at end of season• Avoid damaging—used for multiple season• Roll up tape with Jenny or home-made reel••• Tie up rolls with zip ties or baling wire• Store off ground to prevent rodent damage
  26. 26. Rolling Up Drip TapeGrowing For Market, Nov-Dec2009“Build your own drip tape winder”by Josh VolkGrowing For Market, Jan 2008“Winter work: Build shuttles forrolling up drip tape” by Pam Dawling
  27. 27. Using Drip Tape Effectively• Understand the wetting pattern– gravity and capillary action• Longer irrigation periods– Thoroughly wet the root zone– 3-5 hours per session– 1-2 x week during Spring/Fall– 3 x week during SummerSandy Soil Clay Soil
  28. 28. Using Drip Tape Effectively• Match emitter spacing to plant spacing– 6, 8, 12 inches• May need two drip tape lines per row– Crops with extensive root systems, e.g. tomatoes• Cover row with mulch– Prevents evaporation loss• Fertigation can be effective delivery of fertilizer– Liquid fish and kelp common in organics
  29. 29. Sprinkler IrrigationWhen is it appropriate?1. Need to deliver a lot of waterin short amount of time2. Establishing cover crops inunusually dry weather3. Crop that tolerate wet leaves,washing off aphids, dust4. Early morning or lateafternoon• Minimum wind• High humidity• Low temperature
  30. 30. Impulse Sprinklers1. Good for field irrigation2. Adjustable wetting pattern– Unsure wetting pattern overlaps3. Need good pressure, 50-80 psi4. Requires durable, long hoses5. Frequent moving, dragging hoses6. Use rain gauge to monitor– 1 in per session, even distributionNOT
  31. 31. Impulse SprinklersPerrot Impulse Sprinkler with Five-Legged BaseLee Valley Tools, $69 – operates under lowpressureCheaper options at hardwareor farm supply store
  32. 32. Monitoring Soil Moisture• Feel the soil, dig to observe depth of moisture– Squeeze Test• Tensiometer– Precise (centibars)– Expensive• Better to irrigate sooner than later– Wilting plant already suffering heat stress• Better to irrigate longer than shorter– Frequent irrigation encourages shallow root growthSteveUpsonNobleFoundation
  33. 33. Critical Moisture PeriodsLeafy Vegetables (cabbage, lettuce, spinach)Root, Tuber, Bulb Vegetables (potatoes, carrots, onions)Fruit and Seed Vegetables (cucurbits, beans, tomatoes)• Plant with moisture at or near field capacity• Frequent irrigation during season• Most sensitive between head formation andharvest• Require regular, even irrigation• Most sensitive as storage organs expanding• Carrots very sensitive to moisture stress• Most sensitive at flowering and fruitdevelopment• Need constant moisture during fruit enlargement• Moisture can be reduced as fruit enters maturingstageSee Handout and Alabama Extension Publication
  34. 34. Summary1. Develop a system to effectively captureand conserve soil moisture2. Choose an irrigation system that worksfor your specific needs– Drip tape very useful in vegetable andspecialty crop production3. Actively monitor soil moisture andprovide water when your crops need itthe most
  35. 35. Thank YouAny Questions?