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Chapter 18: Microirrigation

Published by the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers, St. Joseph, Michigan

Citation:  Pages 437-458 (doi:10.13031/swce.2013.18) in Soil and Water Conservation Engineering, 7th Edition . Copyright 2013 American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers, St. Joseph, Mich.
Authors:   Rodney L. Huffman, Delmar D. Fangmeier, William J. Elliot, Stephen R. Workman
Keywords:   Soil, Water, Conservation, Environment, Microirrigation, 18.1 Advantages and Disadvantages of Microirrigation, 18.2 Layout and Components of Microirrigation Systems, 18.2 Emitter Discharge, 18.4 Water Distribution from Emitters, 18.5 Microirrigation Syste

Introductory paragraphs: Microirrigation is a method for delivering slow, frequent applications of water to the soil using a low-pressure distribution system and special flow-control outlets. Microirrigation is also referred to as drip, subsurface, bubbler, low-flow, low-pressure, or trickle irrigation, and all have similar design and management criteria. These systems deliver water to individual plants or rows of plants. The outlets are generally spaced at short intervals along small tubing, and unlike surface or sprinkler irrigation, only the soil near the plant is watered. The outlets include emitters, orifices, bubblers, and sprays or microsprinklers with flows ranging from 2 to over 200 L/h.

According to Karmeli and Keller (1975), microirrigation research began in Germany about 1860. In the 1940s it was introduced in England especially for watering and fertilizing plants in greenhouses. With the increased availability of plastic pipe and the development of emitters in Israel in the 1950s, it has since become an important method of irrigation in Australia, Europe, Israel, Japan, Mexico, South Africa, and the United States. According to the "2000 Irrigation Survey" in Irrigation Journal (2001) California had 675 000 ha, Florida had 270 000 ha; and the U.S. total was over 3 000 000 ha of microirrigation.

Microirrigation has been accepted mostly in the more arid regions for watering high-value crops, such as fruit and nut trees, grapes and other vine crops, sugar cane, pineapples, strawberries, flowers, melons, vegetables, and landscape plants. Microirrigation has also been successfully used on row crops such as corn, cotton, sorghum, and tomatoes. In Arizona, subsurface systems have been used for cotton, melons, vegetables, and wheat in a crop rotation system for over 10 years (Wuertz, 2001). Special equipment was developed for tillage and field operations without removing or damaging the tubing.

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