Row crop growers were among the first farmers to adopt drip irrigation as a production tool rather than to save water. Initially, drip was viewed as a superior way to manipulate plant growth and quality by precisely managing water and fertilizer after germination or plant set. Sprinklers are commonly used to germinate vegetable seed or set vegetable transplants, and in some cases, are still used today to irrigate throughout the crop cycle. But with water, labor, energy, fumigation, organic, and food safety issues becoming more important each day, growers are finding that drip provides real solutions, and may be used for much more than just irrigation after plant establishment.
“With drip, I’m not applying water in-between the beds, so weed growth is greatly reduced. With sprinklers, weeds germinate everywhere and I am forced to hand weed, which is expensive,” says Frank Estrada, Area Manager for Reiter Berry Farms in Watsonville, California. “We stopped using sprinklers over three years ago for anything except pre-irrigation prior to bed prep.”