Drip irrigation can be a good way to reduce water use when irrigating fruit trees, but it is not a simple matter to do it right. This article covers some of the important factors to consider when designing and using a drip irrigation system for watering trees.
- Water must be clean – filtration often is needed.
- Pressure regulation may be needed. Most drip systems operate at 10 to 30 PSI.
- Consider elevation changes. For every foot of elevation change, pressure changes by 0.433 PSI (increases as elevation drops, or decreases as elevation rises). Keep this in mind when designing drip systems for sloped areas.
- Take part in our farm visit in Makindu to learn more about drip irrigation.
- The system must be able to wet at least 50% of the root area of each plant (60% or more is better). Root growth will be confined to moist soil. If the drip system wets too small an area, plants will become root-bound, like a large houseplant growing in a small pot.
- A plant’s root area for these purposes is considered to be within the drip-line (under the crown), even though woody plant root systems typically extend well beyond the crown edge.
- The drip system must be designed to meet the needs of a mature plant in the hottest time of the year.
- Emitters must be spaced to avoid toxic salt build-up around plants.
- Emitters should be above ground. This allows visual inspection to see that the system is working. It also prevents root intrusion into emitters.
- Special low pressure backflow preventers should be used when connecting to culinary water systems.
- Above are just some of the consideration necessary during the design, below are the kind of drippers that are used for fruit trees and orchards. Dripsol Company (www.dripsol.com) offers supply installation and maintanace of dripper systems for orchards and trees.