Reducing Mineral Accumulation in Drip Irrigation Systems
Drip irrigation systems are environmentally friendly, efficient, and a key part of growing healthy, productive crops, though they do require a little maintenance.
Drip irrigation systems deliver optimum water and nutrient levels directly into the plant’s root zone through a network of valves, pipes, tubing, and emitters. Compared to both surface and sprinkler irrigation systems, a drip irrigation system is more efficient as the system conserves water and nutrients by allowing water to drip steadily to the plant’s roots.
While drip irrigation systems have countless advantages, they do require maintenance. Clogged emitters can cause uneven water and fertilizer distribution, higher water usage, and even system failure. Furthermore, salt and mineral buildup from water and fertilizers can affect overall plant health, and heavy salt accumulation can kill both young seedlings and mature crops.
Let’s have a closer look at some of the more common irrigation system blockages, and how to prevent them from damaging your crops.
Sand, soil, and surface water debris are the most common physical causes of clogged emitters. Sometimes, suspended solids can obstruct the emitter’s opening, while less often, silt-sized particles can create larger masses that cause clogging. An adequate water filtration system can prevent all types of physical plugging of drip systems.
Inapt fertilizer mixing, low-quality fertilizers, and water sources that are high in calcium and magnesium carbonates can contribute to salt buildup on the walls of irrigation lines. They can also cause a buildup of insoluble particles that lodge in the emitters, causing increased precipitation on the irrigation line walls, or at the emitters. To reduce chemical blockages, it is important to maintain a pH solution between 5.2 to 5.8, change emitters that are older than seven years, clean screens regularly, and clean lines with a fertilizer line cleaner or acid solution between crops.
High amounts of manganese, iron, or hydrogen sulfides in the irrigation system may lead to the development of algae and bacteria in the irrigation line and proliferate under high temperatures. This will result in emitter blockages, nutrient solution disturbance, and can lead to reduced vegetative growth. In such cases, herbicides accompanied by periodic high pressure flushing, as well as regular flushing of the irrigation system, will be necessary. A regular injection of chlorine, along with disinfecting lines and reservoirs using commercially available products, can also help to mitigate some microbial issues.
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How to Keep Your Irrigation System Running Optimally
Most greenhouse irrigation systems should be flushed every two weeks, at a minimum while in use, to ensure there are no hiccups. However, flushing frequency will be determined by the needs of the drip system and the preferences of the grower. Here are the two most effective ways to keep your irrigation system running smoothly throughout the grow cycle:
Post-Harvest Drip Line Flush
Diluted solution of chlorine or nitric acid is the most efficient way to clean your drip system post-harvest, although some growers say basic dish soap does the trick. Cultivators who use coco or stonewool should consider a flushing agent with enzymes to break down dead root matter and other biomass particles.
During-Cultivation Irrigation System Cleaning
There are products in the market that are non-toxic and biodegradable, that are specifically created to clean the system while also preventing salt, mineral, and fertilizer buildup in irrigation equipment during the grow cycle. Simply add some to your water or fertilizer.
Benefits of Reducing Mineral Accumulation in Irrigation Systems
- Even distribution of fertilizer across all plants.
- Healthier plants and better yields.
- Reduce wastage of water and fertilizer through runoff.
- Prevent pests and diseases.
- Prevent toxicities or imbalances, resulting in a higher quality finished product.
Drip irrigation systems make it possible to be even more precise when supplying nutrition to plants. They’re efficient, environmentally friendly, and aid in the development of robust, healthy crops. However, a greenhouse irrigation system that’s contaminated with salt and mineral buildup will negatively affect water delivery and, with that, your plants’ health. By taking proper care of your irrigation system, you’ll ensure your plants get all the benefits and none of the blockages.
Hygrozyme is a manufacturer of a variety of natural and safe to use products for the agricultural marketplace. To learn more, visit hygrozyme.com or contact [email protected]
Written by Karen Lloyd | Freelance Writer, Digital Marketing Expert
Karen Lloyd is a freelance writer, digital marketing expert and hippy at heart in the city with a small studio, spacious deck and enormous passion for all things cannabis, urban gardening and food equity in Toronto.