If you want to gain an edge in the alfalfa market, you need to increase your alfalfa yields and quality, and lower your costs. Meet precision irrigation.
Alfalfa is a uniquely-demanding, water-intensive, perennial crop with a deep root system. But even a little stress caused by too much or too little water will have a negative effect on its growth, development and overall stand quality. That’s why unpredictable climates and wasteful irrigation methods like flood aren’t good enough – you need consistency, not vulnerability to over or undernourishment.
Precision irrigation gives you total control over the alfalfa root zone by using SDI (subsurface drip irrigation), delivering water and nutrients straight to the roots of each plant. It fits into any plot, and can be applied to all topographies, field sizes and soil types. So you can maintain optimal soil moisture and nutrient levels in all conditions across your entire alfalfa field.
And if you add digital controls to your system, you’ll be able to monitor and optimize your yield while it’s growing, gaining data about every aspect of your field and local climate. So wherever you are, however you grow, you can ensure consistently high, top-quality yields every season. And make even bigger profits.
Why should I choose precision irrigation over other, cheaper methods?
It’s true that precision irrigation isn’t the cheapest method. But it does ensure you grow higher alfalfa yields of better quality, every season, in a range of challenging environments and using minimal resources. Moreover, drip enables farmers to do an additional harvest (at least) per year, because you can irrigate immediately after the previous cut.
Plus, since alfalfa is such a thirsty, sensitive crop, you’ll want to avoid wasting water and nutrients with methods like flood or pivot irrigation. And not just because those methods deplete your resources – they also throw them on the soil without directing them to plant roots, which jeopardizes the uniformity of your crops.
How much will precision irrigation cost me per hectare?
The price depends on three things. First, how you’ll get water from the source to the field. Second, your peak crop water demand, which is governed by your climate conditions and crop canopy cover. And finally, your soil type, which will determine your emitter spacing. To give you a quote for cost per unit area, our agronomists would need to assess these factors, among others.
Should I use surface or subsurface drip irrigation on my alfalfa?
Subsurface drip irrigation (SDI) systems are most suitable for alfalfa field operations. Compared to on-surface systems, SDIs deliver additional benefits such as lower labor requirements, protection from agromachinery interference, and enhanced water-use efficiency. SDI systems also favor modern tillage practices such as no-till or minimum tillage.
If I have a lot of rainfall, will drip still be a good investment?
Definitely. While having ample rainfall is obviously a huge advantage, the major disadvantage is that rainfall doesn’t allow you to control and optimize your alfalfa’s nutrient delivery.
With precision irrigation, that nutrient delivery is targeted, dosed in controlled quantities according to your plants’ needs, so you can maintain consistent crop health and quality throughout the seasons. The technique is called ‘precision fertigation’ and it’s a core feature of every precision irrigation system.
What if I have an uneven topography or irregularly shaped alfalfa field?
Precision irrigation works just as well on uneven topographies. All you need is to install pressure-compensated (PC) dripper lines in your system, so water and nutrients are delivered to each plant with uniform flow rates – across your entire field.
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The challenges for open - field growers are different. You’re trying to keep a delicate balance between smart risk - management and fast, high-volume crop growth.
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That’s where precision irrigation comes in.
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