Every farmer knows that irrigation efficiency — getting the right amount of water to your crops — is essential to optimizing profitability and yield. But poor distribution uniformity in your irrigation system can create problems that compromise plant health and lower yield. This is true even if your irrigation scheduling is well calculated to deliver the right amount of water to your fields at the right intervals.
Distribution uniformity (DU) is a measurement of how evenly a field is irrigated. Whether you are using a sprinkler system or a micro-drip irrigation system, various factors can cause the system to deliver unevenly. This leads to some areas of the field being overwatered, while others receive too little water.
Why Does Irrigation Distribution Uniformity Matter?
If your DU is low, it becomes impossible to deliver optimal amounts of water to your entire irrigated area. If you deliver enough to keep the low-water areas well irrigated, then the high-water areas will receive too much. This raises water costs and can lead to root rot and fungal diseases as well as excess strain on irrigation pumps. If you shorten run times to prevent overwatering, the low areas will suffer from lack of water, which impacts both plant and soil health. Either way, you’ll experience decreased yield and lower profits.
In arid states like California, distribution uniformity is a critical factor in protecting the water supply as well as in improving crop quality. Water-efficient irrigation systems depend on properly balanced irrigation distributors to reduce water and energy expenses. If you are running a fertigation system, optimizing your irrigation system may result in your fertilizer expenses decreasing, as well. You also will get healthier plants and increased yield. Many farmers enjoy significantly increased irrigation efficiency — and higher profits — simply by adjusting DU in their irrigation systems.
While no irrigation system will achieve 100% DU, you want the highest irrigation efficiency possible for your system. Anything less than 70% DU is considered unacceptable and will seriously impact ROI.
What Causes Poor DU?
Many factors contribute to poor distribution uniformity. These include:
- System fouling due to bacteria, algae, and biofilm
- Build up of mineral deposition from high bicarbonates
- Clogged or poorly designed emitters
- Poor pressure regulation
- Irrigation system design, including mainline and submain pipe sizing and lateral line size, length, placement and material
- Pump maintenance and performance
- Filtration and backflow
- Monitoring and measuring capabilities
All of these factors must be balanced with cost to determine the best irrigation management solutions for your farm or orchard.
Optimize DU in Your Irrigation System
DU testing is essential for optimizing the performance of your micro-irrigation equipment or other irrigation system. Running a DU test regularly will help you stay on top of your irrigation system’s performance and correct potential problems before they have a chance to seriously impact your yield.
Our unique approach to DU testing was developed in partnership with industry and university experts to bring you the most advanced irrigation management solution possible. Using our integrated Irrigation Health Plan™ as a system dashboard puts performance data at your fingertips so you can quickly identify and correct poor irrigation distribution uniformity issues. Utilizing this advanced capacity to analyze trends in your irrigation system and taking action to prevent potential issues will help improve your drip irrigation efficiency and optimize system performance and profitability.
Get Started Today
To learn more about our drip irrigation services and how we can help achieve more water-efficient irrigation systems, call our main office at 209-900-4500 or contact us here today.