The Benefits of Micro-Irrigation

The Benefits of Micro-Irrigation

row crop with micro-irrigation tubing running between each rowMicro-irrigation is the slow, frequent application of water directly to relatively small areas. Water is generally ran through low-pressure, flexible plastic tubing.  A leading advantage of micro-irrigation is that non-beneficial evaporation is greatly reduced when compared to sprinkler irrigation.

There are several application methods:

  1. Drip irrigation– Water is applied through small emitters to the soil surface, usually near the plant to be irrigated.
  2. Subsurface drip irrigation– Water is applied below the soil surface through drip line laterals that are installed at a depth of 12-18 inches.
  3. Micro-spray irrigation – Water is applied to the soil surface in a small spray or mist by an emitter 6-12 inches about the soil surface.

How Does Micro-Irrigation Work

Any type of irrigation in a commercial agriculture system can greatly reduce the climate-related yield risks resulting from water stress.  Compared to overhead irrigation systems, micro-irrigation can provide some added measure of reduced risk.

  • Because of its high efficiency.
  • Allows for flexibility in the timing and amounts of applied water.
  • Less water is applied, nutrient leaching is reduced.
  • Nutrient applications can also be better timed to meet plant needs.
  • Allows for the use of polyethylene mulch.
  • Micro-irrigation can be used to protect small horticultural crops from freezes.

What Are Agronomic Benefits?

The reduced wetting of soil surfaces and plant canopies may result in lower weed and disease pressure. The leading agronomic benefits of micro-irrigation are:

  • Uses less water.
  • Reduces pest problems.
  • Surface crusting is reduced.
  • Joint management of irrigation and fertilization.

Low pumping needs, automation (reduces labor costs), and flexibility all have positive impacts on production costs.

What is the Investment Cost?

Drip irrigation systems typically cost around $500-$1000 per acre and can be useful for several years.

What Are Barrier and Incentives for Implementation?

Barriers for implementation could be economic investment, Lack of information about the system and High-quality water. While incentives are Cost-Share Programs for Water Conservation, such as Water Conservation Programs administered by USDA and State and Regional Water Conservation Programs.

Click here for more information, or contact your local Agricultural Extension Agent.

Chris Vann- Extension Agent- Agriculture/4-H

4 Comments on “The Benefits of Micro-Irrigation

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  3. I didn’t realize that there were irrigation systems that actually are placed below the soil surface in order to water the plants. This seems like it would be great because there wouldn’t be any lost water to the air, it would be injected directly near the roots of your plants. My husband has been looking for something to put in our flower garden to help them get watered better so I’ll have to see if he has considered this kind of system. I think that it would work great!

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