Over the past two decades, one form of drip irrigation technology has rapidly advanced: Subsurface drip irrigation, a low pressure, high efficiency irrigation system that utilizes drip tubes or tape in order to meet specific crop water needs. Ideal for farms in dry, hot and windy regions with limited water supplies, SDI systems run underground, allowing crops to thrive without above-ground impediments.
According to Colorado State University, some of the benefits of SDI systems include:
- Elimination of undesirable surface irrigation side effects, such as crusting, surface runoff and saturated ponding water.
- Reduced incidence of disease and weeds.
- Greater crop yields as a result of the additional heat provided by dry surface conditions.
- Reduced labor needs when the SDI system is efficiently managed.
Making a Difference Today
In California, where water deficits are hitting growers hardest, SDI systems are proving their value. Alfalfa growers at one California ranch made the transition from an old sprinkler irrigation system to an SDI system.
Already the ranch has seen considerable benefit as a result of the switch, witnessing rapid plant growth and considerable cost savings. Under their old sprinkler system, the ranch was using nine inches of water per cutting while spending $20 per acre per cutting on labor in order to yield 0.75-1 ton of crop. With an SDI system, the farm only used four inches of water per cutting, spending about $2.50 per acre on labor costs and yielding nearly two tons. As a result, the ranch is able to start diversifying and is now able to integrate alfalfa hay into its operation.
Not Just About Quantity
Although subsurface drip irrigation systems are a proven and effective ways to make the most of your water, it’s important to note that it’s not just about quantity – it’s also about quality. SDI systems are compatible with the Accu-Tab ® Calcium Hypochlorite Feed System, a safe, low-maintenance solution for sanitizing irrigation water and optimizing the performance of your irrigation system. (Click here to download our capabilities brochure.)
By combining a subsurface irrigation system with Accu-Tab® chlorinators and tablets, farms can regain control of their operations, even as droughts and water deficits hit the prairie hard. Whether it’s the irrigation system or the chlorination system, the “slow trickle” can yield a flood of dividends.