Although installation and maintenance of a drip system is no more labor-intensive or complex than that of a traditional system, designing a drip system for maximum water distribution efficiency does require much thought. Drip irrigation designs can only truly optimize the application of water if water waste below the plant root zone is taken into consideration. The best design for a drip irrigation system is one that minimizes water waste below the root zone and strives to apply the precise amount of water required by each individual plant or group of plants in a landscape.
Here are some of the things you have to consider when installing a drip irrigation system;
- Determine the quality of your water source for your drip irrigation. Factors may include such things as a pond water source that will require installation of a filtering system or an adjustment of the water pH, depending on your crops.
- Familiarize yourself with the elevation of the plot/field you plan to irrigate, as it will determine how you size the system and adjust water flow. A 2.3-foot change in elevation, for instance, results in a gain of 1 pound of water pressure going downhill, or loss of 1 pound of pressure going uphill, requiring pressure compensation within the system on steep slopes. Topography, water flow rate and distance also will affect the size of pipes you’ll need.
- Will you automate your drip system? Depending on the complexity and size of the system, you may need to split watering times between different zones to water spaces incrementally, based on the output of your pump or the water needs of different crops. Automation ensures consistency in soil moisture and in flow, versus turning the water on and off at irregular intervals. The latter is important if you use the drip system to fertilize.
- How about when plants mature. As plants mature, they require more water, which is especially important if you are irrigating perennial fruit crops. Build the system with the capacity to supply the optimum amount of water plants will need at maturity. If your irrigation water comes from the same well your home uses, the pressure tank may need to be upsized to reduce pump cycling and possible pump burnout. Or, you can irrigate at night when family water use is minimal.
- Allow for expansion when installing your system. For systems one-half acre or larger, scaling for expansion up front will save money, as permanently installed pipes should be buried below the frost line and the cost of trenching in pipelines is costly. Size your pipes to accommodate future growth of your operation. Doubling the pipe diameter will quadruple the potential water flow rate.
How do you design a drip irrigation system for your farm
- Gather accurate site data. Although accurate data is important to any irrigation design, it is even more important with low-volume irrigation, because water is distributed in more precise amounts. Site data encompasses information such as water source(s), soil type, climate and hydrozones. It is also important to note whether areas are densely planted or sparsely planted, different planting schemes dictate different design approaches and related drip products.
- Determine plant water requirements. Calculate the precise amount of water needed by each type of plant within the irrigation site. By doing so, you’ll be able to figure out the most effective irrigation methods and types of emitters required for different groups of plantings. To calculate each plant’s water requirements, you’ll need to take into account several factors, including species, climate and planting density.
- Irrigate your “base plant.” Base plants are those plants within the irrigation area that require the least water. Irrigate this plant to determine how long it takes to provide adequate hydration. The remainder of your system will be designed to deliver the required amount of water to all other plants in the same amount of time it takes to water the base plant. Your irrigation product manufacturer can provide advice about the best emission devices and appropriate spacing, pressure, flow rate and filters for your application.
- Calculate system run time. As stated in Step 3, system runtime is dictated by the irrigation needs of the base plant, meaning that flow rates to other plants must be adjusted for adequate hydration during that same amount of time. You’ll also need to determine your maximum system run time (the length of time your system can run before you begin to waste water.) This time depends on the flow rates of your emitters and the allowable depletion of your soil. From there, you can also determine your irrigation interval and how often you’ll run your system.
- Irrigate “non-base plants.” To irrigate non-base plants, you will need to calculate the number of emission devices required for each plant by dividing the daily water requirement for each remaining plant by the system run time you calculated in Step 4. This tells you the minimum flow rate required for each plant and allows you to select the emission devices necessary to meet or exceed that flow rate.
- Lay out the system. Once you’ve determined the type, number and spacing of emission devices required for each plant or group of plants, simply determine the most cost-effective layout to connect the various emission devices to the water source via tubing or PVC pipe.
- Calculate system hydraulics. This step is imperative to ensure that there is sufficient flow and water pressure to irrigate all parts of the landscape. These factors are influenced by changes in elevation and friction between water and system components. Calculating your system hydraulics enables you to determine the maximum allowable pressure loss, which, in turn, tells you the maximum length of your drip line laterals.
Water is the world’s most precious resource, and as time passes, it becomes increasingly important for all of us to use water responsibly in our daily lives. Drought conditions and water restrictions throughout much of the country have caused the concept of drip irrigation to become more and more popular. These systems are no more difficult to design and install than conventional irrigation systems, and their outstanding flexibility and top-notch results make them well worth any extra effort. Drip irrigation has truly established itself as a cost-effective way for proactive irrigation contractors to promote intelligent water usage and differentiate their businesses. Mazero Agrifoods main objective is to promote effective water usage through methods such as drip irrigation. We help farmers in the designing and installation of irrigation systems at reasonable prices. Contact us today on 0729777711.