The Great Dilemma
When starting a market farm and one of the leading concerns is the irrigation system. To drip or not drip, that is the question. Irrigation is a necessity when it comes to commercial farming. I am a big fan of drip irrigation, but also a fan of overhead sprinklers on risers. Each has its pros and its cons. The crops that you grow will determine which system is best for you. Overhead irrigation If you are growing Quick crops, crops that are in the ground for around 60 days, then overhead watering is for you. Arugula, cilantro, salad greens, mustard greens, radish, spinach and green onions are examples of Quick crops. Due to the constant activity in these beds, overhead irrigation may be the right choice for you. The uniformity of the water distribution makes overhead sprinklers ideal if you do a lot direct seeding.
|Cost effective and Low maintenance cost||Wasted water. Water the designated beds and the walkways|
|Easily movable||Can lead to weed growth in areas that are unnecessarily irrigated|
|Ideal for direct seeded crops||Spray can kick up dirt from bed to pathway|
|Do not have to move drip when weeding or amending the bed||Cannot be used on plants that susceptible to foliar damage|
|Adjustable nozzles and spray range|
|Larger more uniform coverage area|
Drip Irrigation Some crops cannot handle excessive water on their leaves, and for these crops Drip irrigation is ideal. When growing tomatoes, the presence of excess water on leaves leads to powdery mildew and other fungal infections and diseases. If you live in an area that is extremely hot and dry, drip irrigation will help you reduce the amount of water lost to evaporation. Although not ideal for seed germination, drip irrigation delivers water directly to the root zone increasing the efficiency of the sprinkler system.
|More efficient- water applied directly to the root zone||More expensive to set up|
|Ideal for hot, dry arid climates||Have to move when weeding, amending or replacing the beds|
|Can operate with low PSI||Have to be replaced after a few seasons|
|Keeps water off of leaves helping to eliminate fungal diseases||Not ideal for seed germination|
|Able to choose spacing ono the drippers||Tubing has to be often replaced the discarded drip tubing adds to plastic in landfills|
|Higher Maintenance Cost|
|More prone to damage from rodents, farm workers, and sun damage.|
Regardless of which route you choose to explore, irrigation is a necessity for a successful commercial farming operation. Design each irrigation system with each farmers goals, crops and soil type in mind. There is not a one size fits all when it comes to irrigation. Take the time and perform your due diligence, this is one of three keys to market farming success; soil fertility, seed stock, and irrigation.
Curious about what I use on my farms? Well inside high tunnels and greenhouses I use drip irrigation, more specifically I use Drip tape. If I am growing out in the field, I tend to favor overhead sprinklers. All of my irrigation supplies come from here.