VIDEO: Drip irrigation brings water to the field with less power

WOODSTOCK, Ont. — Drip irrigation proponents cite several advantages of their form of water delivery.

“(With) overhead irrigation, your pumps tend to be running at anywhere from 80 to 200 pounds per sq. inch. Drip irrigation tends to be 40 to 60, maybe 80 p.s.i.,” said Ray Mackenzie of Vanden Bussche Irrigation, during Canada’s Outdoor Farm Show in Woodstock, Ont.

“There is much less pressure and it also uses a lot less water, so the energy use that way is greatly reduced.”

The Ontario company, which sells components needed for drip irrigation systems, also displayed a system from Andros used to install drip irrigation tape.

“We use this machine to install drip irrigation lines roughly 14 inches deep and spaced anywhere from 44 to 60 inches apart. The farmer will then no till or minimal till above that for 15 to 25 years, depending on cropping systems,” Mackenzie said.

The implement must be pulled by a tractor with at least 200 horsepower, and GPS is recommended when installing the irrigation tape.

The Andros platform at Woodstock installs four parallel lines at once and can install the irrigation tape on 40 acres of cropland per day. Andros also offers six row platforms that will install six lines at once.

“The biggest issues we have with these systems is a very small window in spring and fall to install them, so a lot of manpower on the farm is very helpful for that,” Mackenzie said.

The drip irrigation tape has built-in drip emitters every 24 inches, which apply small amounts of water over long periods of time into a crop’s root zone. Liquid fertilizer can be added to the irrigation water.

“When you put the fertilizer on with the irrigation water, the application of the fertilizer is pulled up by the crop much faster, and it also gives you much better use of the fertilizer because if you have heavy rains, the fertilizer is not washed out,” he said.

Mackenzie said the system requires a lot of water, which must be clean so that it doesn’t plug the drip emitters in the tape.

“An acre inch of water is 27,000 gallons plus, and you’re looking at using up to an inch and a half per week,” he said.

These irrigation systems are de-signed and installed in blocks, so operators can run small 10 or 20 acre sections at a time.

The header lines, which supply the drip tape, are PVC pipe that is buried roughly 2.5 to three feet. Where this line crosses under the irrigation tape a hole is drilled in the pvc pipe, a grommet is installed, and a heavy tube is inserted which connects to a drip line.

Water has to be blown out of the system before winter sets in. The lines also have to be injected with acid before snow flies to prevent roots from damaging the lines.

The acid “kills any of the growing roots right in the vicinity of the dripper. It doesn’t hurt the plant at all, but just makes sure the roots don’t grow into the dripper line,” Mackenzie said.

The pumps that feed the irrigation fields are usually powered by three phase electric motors.

However, the company also sells diesel-power pumps that also produce electric power that turns valves on and off, which controls the irrigation system.

For more information, visit or

About the author



Stories from our other publications