Lower Production Costs Part 2:
by Michael Kovalycsik, National Sales & Marketing Director, Delta T Solutions
The drought in California over the last four years has changed the way we look at water. While it might be going too far to call the drought a blessing in disguise, it has ignited some good discussions about how we irrigate and what we can do to become more efficient, even where water is plentiful.
Here are four steps growers can take to lower production costs through improved irrigation efficiency:
1. Group plants by water needs. In a greenhouse operation where dozens of different varieties are being grown, plant placement is important. Grouping plants with similar water needs together in the greenhouse makes it easier to water the right amount at the right times to improve efficiency and plant health.
2. Measure your water. If your operation doesn’t already have water meters, install them and keep track of usage. This is the only way to truly know how much water you’re using.
If you’re growing multiple crops at once, you can even measure how much water each specific crop uses. Dr. Marc van Iersel, professor, plant nutrition and physiology in the Department of Horticulture at the University of Georgia, shares his method for accurately measuring water used: Water thoroughly and let the pot drain. Immediately weigh the pot, and then weigh again after 24 hours. The decrease in weight is the water use.
You’ll want to do this both on sunny and cloudy days to see how light levels impact water use. If you know the output of your irrigation system, you can use this to determine how long you need to irrigate to replenish the water used.
3. Use soil moisture monitoring sensors. Using soil moisture monitoring sensors can be extremely helpful in determining a crop’s water needs, because they’re objective. There’s never any guessing about whether or not plants need water.
4. Subirrigate. A significant amount of water is wasted through traditional overhead watering, and it can also result in increased disease instances, not to mention labor costs if you’re hand watering. Investing in flood irrigation can be one solution to reduce waste and labor costs and improve plant health.
Not only is subirrigation faster than hand watering, systems can be programmed to turn on automatically. The controls do everything, freeing up your time and reducing labor costs.
In addition, flood floors promote even watering. With hand watering, it’s easy for some plants to get more water than others. Subirrigation means all the plants get the same amount of water, as well as equal distribution of fertilizer, which is absorbed directly into the growing media.
Subirrigation water can be recycled so there's no runoff, maximizing water and fertilizer use. The water drains to a central area, where it’s filtered to reduce the risk of disease.
Delta T Solutions offers flood irrigation systems that can be customized to fit growers’ specific requirements. In addition, Delta T’s flood floor valves are pneumatic, which means they don’t rely on large, energy-guzzling motors.
Contact Delta T Solutions for details on how one of our performance-engineered heating or irrigation systems will meet your needs. Call 800-552-5058 or email: email@example.com.
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