Micro-Sprinklers in Strawberry Production Saves Water

Research study conducted in partnership with RDO Water Strawberry-Micro-Sprinkler

Author: RDO Water

In October 2014, a 10-month research study began on the use of micro-sprinklers in strawberry production. RDO Water was a key participant in the study, conducted at Manzanita Berry Farms in Santa Maria, CA, in partnership with University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources Cooperative Extension.

RDO Water released its results and analysis of the study in January of this year. Earlier this month, UC published a story specific to the water-savings discovered in the study, as included below.

The Issue
Water is an important resource for growing plants, and it has become scarce due to epic drought conditions in California. Conserving water through improved irrigation practices is critical for maintaining acreage of a lucrative commodity such as strawberry. Strawberry growers typically provide supplemental irrigation through overhead aluminum sprinklers to mitigate the dry conditions of the region. However, they can be inefficient systems, because they require a significant amount of water, and because there is plastic mulch on the beds, which limits the water that enters the soil and increases runoff potential. Micro-sprinklers, commonly used in orchard systems, could offer an efficient alternative to conventional aluminum sprinklers.

What Has ANR Done?
A study was conducted at Manzanita Berry Farms in Santa Maria during the 2014–2015 production season to evaluate the potential of micro-sprinklers in strawberry production. The study compared conventional aluminum sprinklers with micro-sprinklers on about one hundred and twenty 330-foot-long strawberry beds. Data were collected on the amount of water distributed, electrical conductivity of soil that determines salt condition, strawberry yield, and the incidence and severity of powdery mildew and botrytis fruit rot. While there were no conclusive findings about diseases, there were significant water savings without a negative impact on fruit yield. Detailed information about the study design and findings can be found at: http://ucanr.edu/blogs/blogcorepostdetail.cfm?postnum=19699.

The Payoff
Significant water savings without additional maintenance costs.
This study demonstrated 32% water savings in just 3 weeks of using the micro-sprinkler system. This new information can inform future growing practices for this important California crop, valued at $2.2 billion. An initial estimate by a vendor suggests that equipment and handling costs of the micro-sprinklers are more or less similar to those of the aluminum sprinklers. If adopted, strawberry growers could conserve resources without incurring additional maintenance costs or experiencing any changes to strawberry yield.

 

To learn more about micro-sprinklers, contact Danilu Ramirez at dramirez@rdowater or a local  RDO Water store. The full list of RDO Water’s eight locations in Arizona and California can be found at http://rdowater.com/contact.

 

Full article shared from UC Delivers, with credit to Dr. Surendra Dara.

Results of Micro-Sprinkler Study Published

Research conducted at Manzanita Berry Farms in Santa Maria, CA

Author: Surendra Dara

 

Micro-Sprinkler-StrawberryStrawberry is an important commercial crop in California primarily grown on the Central Coast in Watsonville, Santa Maria, and Oxnard production areas. Strawberry crop requires 24-29” of irrigation water for a typical production season based on fall plantings. Irrigation is primarily administered through drip tapes installed under plastic mulch during bed preparation. In addition to the drip irrigation throughout the crop life, supplemental irrigation through overhead aluminum sprinklers is administered during the first few weeks after transplanting. Overhead irrigation is practiced to leach out salts from the root zone and to support the establishment of new transplants. Strawberries are sensitive to salinity and this supplemental irrigation is believed to reduce or prevent salt injury. In the Oxnard area, overhead aluminum sprinkler irrigation is considered very important to prevent dry conditions which could result from Santa Ana winds. However, overhead aluminum sprinkler irrigation requires a significant amount of water and can be an inefficient system. Evaporation, limited surface area for water penetration due to plastic mulch on the beds, and potential run off are some of the disadvantages associated with this overhead sprinkler system.

Read the complete article on the Strawberries and Vegetables news website.