Drip/trickle irrigation

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Watering plants so that only soil in the plant’s immediate vicinity is moistened. Water is supplied to the plant’s roots from a network of thin plastic tubes at a low flow rate and in precise amounts. Drip lines are typically buried in the center of a soil bed.

It is the most efficient use of water for irrigation and also reduces the chance of pathogens because the entire plant is not wetted, thereby denying moisture to the microorganisms.

To facilitate the use of drip irrigation, growers typically use ground water pumped from shallow alluvial wells as the source of irrigation water. Unlike surface waters, ground water is relatively free of particulates and is available on a more timely and reliable basis.

Although there are significant upfront costs to convert to drip irrigation, its use results in considerable savings long term due to reduced water use and waste, decreased requirements for fertilizer, pesticides, labor, and machinery compared with conventional methods.

Drip irrigation systems may be renovated each season or less often, depending on the grower’s management scheme and crop rotation.

Drip irrigation is often used in conjunction with plasticulture.


James Peth

James Peth

James Peth, MS, MPH, PhD is an Assistant Prof. in Food Science and Human Nutrition at Colorado State University in Fort Collins, Colorado.