Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Watering the Chiles-Drip Irrigation

Yesterday Jose and Kara got the water on the chile and pepper plants. These plants are watered using drip irrigation versus overhead sprinklers for various reasons, many of which I'm sure could be better explained by Lee and Wayne.

The number one reason for using t-tape of drip irrigation on crops is usually water conservation. Compared with overhead sprinklers, the amount of water used and the concentrated placement of the water is specifically managed to water each plant at it's roots. Plants like peppers may become fragile and top heavy as they mature where overhead water might cause them to topple over and snap. The plants may not respond well to water all over their recently pollinated flowers and foliage as they try to mature to healthy plants without disease and full of sweet and spicy fruits. Weed management is simplified with drip irrigation. While there is now a plastic tube in the way when you do want to cultivate around the plants, the area being watered to encourage surrounding weeds is much less than areas that have been sprinkled. There many many benefits to drip irrigation!

Alternatively, there is cost in this process. Not only is there investment in the resources and infrastructure such as that giant roll of plastic tape and all the fittings and fixtures to make the system complete, but also there is the time and care that goes into setting it all up. Luckily it is just a one time thing for the season until a gopher chews a hole through a tape and maintenance is obligatory, or until frost hits and the entire set up must then be disassembled.

Kara and Jose went about the motions yesterday getting the tape carefully placed around the plants, another practice to ensure best growing practices and conditions for production in the fields. It was a bit breezy out there yesterday as it seems it is any day you are trying to haul super long pieces of tape down crop rows. Rather than breaking her back and hunching over to keep the tape from blowing in the wind as Kara walked it down each row, she smartly innovated a technique of wrapping it around her ankle as she walked to keep tension on the tape out of the wind while keeping her body ergonomically protected from farm work.

Overhead sprinkling absolutely has it's use and niche in the farm fields, I think a majority of the crops at Tierra are given overhead water. Obviously, the set up can be less trouble, there is more freedom of cultivation, the water may benefit some kinds of plants in washing away pests, it may assist in germination of dense or smaller seeds that need even water coverage throughout the rows, etc... These are just a few more things to think about when planning and operating the farm.

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