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Getting started with SDI

Subsurface drip irrigation (SDI) has a lot of advantages
over other irrigation systems: It's low pressure, so is easier on pumps and
requires less energy to keep the water flowing, and many times, it's more
efficient than other types of systems.

"When managed properly, water and fertilizer application
efficiencies are enhanced, and labor needs are reduced. Field operations are
also possible, even when irrigation is applied," according to Colorado
State University water resource specialist Denis Reich.

But, there are cons to SDI. The tubing must be layed out and
installed in the right pattern in the field to get water distributed evenly.
Plus, the materials can be subject to damage from rodents and soil collapse.

"Rodents tend to chew the tubes, therefore use
precaution to prevent rodent damage," Reich adds. "The performance
and life of any system depends on how well it is designed and operated. Whether
automatically controlled or otherwise, inspect the system regularly. What’s
more, since SDI is under the surface, repairing tubes is difficult and
cumbersome."

Maintained properly, he says, an SDI system can last up to
20 years. And, while the initial costs are often higher than developing a
comparable system of another type, Reich says other variables go along way to
determining whether it's a cost-efficient system for your farm. "A
subsurface drip system may require higher initial investment and cost will vary
due to water source, quality, filtration need, choice of material, soil
characteristics and degree of automation desired," he says. "System
cost, including installation, may range from $1,000 to $2,000 per acre."

If you're set on building an SDI system, check with your
USDA-NRCS office first, Reich adds, as you may be eligible for cost-share
funding.

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