Subsurface drip irrigation helps eliminate washout, evaporation
By Lindsay Owens
From “Growing In The Heartland” Magazine October 2015
LOOKING AT BILL Resler’s field of corn located just outside of Oaktown, one may not noticed much of anything out of the ordinary. The stalks are tall and adorned with ears of corn waiting to mature for harvest. The gentle sound of a pump running echoes in the background but you won’t find an overhead irrigation system around.
Resler, who said typically this particular field yields about 125 bushels of corn to the acre, is hoping for an even better result this year since he’s installed Netafim subsurface drip irrigation with the help of the TRICKL-EEZ Company. The drip irrigation system is made of flexible polyethylene tubing that features emitters permanently affixed to the inside of the tubing. The tubing, which from the outside looks like much like traditional trickle tape often used to irrigate specialty crops such as melons, tomatoes and peppers, is buried 12 to 18-inches deep with rows set between 40 and 60-inches apart.
“West of Highway 41 has more water than we do on this side,” said Resler, who so far, likes the results he’s seen from the underground system. “I’m trying to make a marginal farm into a good farm and get a better return on my investment in the long run. I plan to do 35 more acres next year. We just couldn’t get enough water over here before.”
Resler has two wells installed on this particular farm and said that the use of the new system has already proven beneficial to his crop.
“It looks a lot better than it normally does,” he said. “I’m still learning but I like what I see so far. We can put on ¾ an inch of water with the system we have here. It’s going to be a good investment.”
Grant Williams, Midwest/Northeast Netafim sales representative was on hand at Resler’s farm to explain how the subsurface irrigation system works.
“We offer several different grades of tubing for different crops,” said Williams as he held up a ring containing multiple samples of the tubing. “We are using ‘Typhoon’ here. The sensors help to adjust to the needs of the crop. Those sensors also adjust for elevation.”
Williams said the underground system, which is expected to last decades, uses less water than traditional overhead irrigation and many growers see an increase in yield.
“The system is about 95 percent water efficient since the water is delivered directly to the root zone,” said Williams, who said the system will work in field of nearly any shape, size and elevation.
The underground system is also fairly affordable. Installation representatives said the materials cost about $1,500 per acre. Each system is custom designed to meet the needs of each field. Approximately 2.5 acres of the specialized trickle tape can be installed in an hour using a special piece of equipment brought to the farm by the TRICKL-EEZ Company.
To help track the progress of the corn crop on Resler’s ground, two probes were installed to track rainfall, fertilizer levels and more.
“With ground like this, you don’t want to get behind with water,” said Betsy Bower with Ceres Solutions, which monitors the probes. “You want to stay on top of the game.”
Bower said the probes use a telemetry unit and crop metrics platform to translate data so that users know how much and when to water.
“Knowing where the roots are is key,” she said, as she showed the crowd gathered a chart detailing the probe results from the Resler’s ground. “Different farms and fields need to be managed differently.”
Managing the needs of crops can be done through the subsurface drip system as well.
“Fertilizer can be applied through the system,” said Williams. “With this system, that fertilize will go directly to the roots. This system isn’t using anything new. It’s just using what we have available in a way that’s new to this area.”
PERKS OF SUBSURFACE DRIP IRRIGATION
• Reduces crop stress • Prevents weed germination • Eliminates herbicide washout • Reduces labor requirements • Eliminates surface evaporation • Reduces maintenance costs
For more information on
TRICKL-EEZ Company and the subsurface drip irrigation system, visit www.trickl-eez.com or call 269-429-8200.