Drip-irrigation study sees ‘big’ reduction in water, fertilizer use for sweet corn

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Study by UCCE advisor in Imperial County additionally exhibits 5% improve in yield

A brand new study means that drip irrigation for sweet corn can considerably preserve water, scale back fertilizer use and increase crop yield in the low desert of California – and sure in different areas of California with related situations.

Although Imperial County is California’s prime sweet corn-producing county, with about 8,000 acres planted on common every year, irrigation strategies for this crop have been not often studied in this area (or wherever else in the state), in accordance with Ali Montazar, UC Cooperative Extension irrigation and water administration advisor for Imperial, Riverside and San Diego counties.

 

A field of corn under drip irrigation

A drip-irrigated sweet corn trial area in Westmorland, Imperial County. Photo by Ali Montazar

 

Montazar carried out a study in the Imperial Valley over two crop seasons, 2020-21 and 2021-22, to exhibit and quantify the potential advantages of switching to drip irrigation from the extra widespread furrow irrigation methodology. The study, accessible in a current situation of UC Agriculture and Natural Resources’ Agricultural Briefs, might be printed in a future situation of Vegetables West.

“I’m hoping with this venture we will encourage growers to undertake it, as a result of it appears very promising,” mentioned Montazar, noting that drip irrigation is a “new observe” for sweet corn in California.

Among the 11 industrial sweet corn fields in the study over the 2021-22 season, the six that have been beneath drip irrigation used, on common, 37% much less water than the 5 beneath furrow irrigation. In absolute phrases, the drip-irrigated fields noticed a median water financial savings of two.2 acre-feet per acre; for Montazar, who has studied drip for a wide range of crops in the Imperial Valley, that was an astonishing consequence.

“I’ve labored with drip on processed onions, lettuce, alfalfa, spinach … we have by no means seen a determine like 2.2 acre-feet per acre, that is big,” he mentioned, attributing the dramatic drop-off to the excessive quantity of water required to furrow-irrigate the sandy soil in the Imperial Valley.

 

Filtration system for sweet corn field drip irrigation

Filtration is essential in drip irrigation, because it removes sediment and different particles that may clog the system. Photo by Ali Montazar

 

More environment friendly irrigation additionally means much less fertilizer is required – a boon to the setting and Salton Sea water high quality, in addition to growers’ backside line. With fertilizer costs persevering with to rise, sweet corn growers utilizing drip might see a considerable 25% value financial savings on fertilizer bills – about $150 per acre much less – in comparison with furrow irrigation, in accordance with Montazar’s study.

And by relieving crops of the stress from over- and under-irrigated situations, drip irrigation helps hold soil moisture at its “sweet spot” – ensuing in a 5% improve in marketable crop yield for sweet corn in the study.

“When we’ve a greater, extra environment friendly irrigation system, we will preserve soil moisture at a desired degree, over time and area,” Montazar defined.

Because the advantages of drip seem like linked to soil situations (sandy loam, and different gentle soils), Montazar believes that this irrigation observe might ship comparatively related water and fertilizer financial savings and improved crop yield in different areas throughout California, no matter climactic variations.

“If you use drip in any a part of the state, you might have the advantages of drip – extra uniform water software, extra uniform fertilizer – that is not associated to the desert,” he mentioned. “That’s a part of the system’s potential.”

Montazar plans to comply with up on his preliminary study with extra analysis on sweet corn and drip irrigation through the 2022-23 crop season.

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