Micro-sprinklers have long been used to provide climate control and irrigate fruit, nut and cover crops. Now, micro-sprinklers can be used as part of an integrated pest management (IPM) plan in row crops, as well. By placing a grid of micro-sprinklers above the crop and operating it a few times a week, dust is washed off the leaves and humidity is increased – suppressing harmful pests and encouraging beneficial insects. For example, mites and spider mites favor hot, dusty environments, whereas beneficial predatory insects, such as persimilis, thrive best where humidity levels are between 60 to 90 percent. By applying a light application of water to the crop several times a week, dust, mites and webbing are washed off while the resulting increased humidity encourages beneficial predator species.
In addition, using micro-sprinklers reduces runoff, energy, labor and risk, and eliminates the need for high pressure, high flow rate, conventional sprinkler systems to wash off the leaves. Plus, micro-sprinklers reduce or eliminate expensive pesticide costs – which is important for both conventional and organic growers.
Micro-sprinkler IPM systems are easy to install, operate and maintain. Although field layouts will vary, a typical application includes micro-sprinklers and arranges them on a 20-foot by 20-foot grid above the plants, plastic mulch and buried drip tubing. The micro-sprinklers are threaded into a stake which is inserted into the bed, and then connected via a micro-tubing assembly to drip laterals, such as polyethylene round tubing.
System pressure and flows are low, similar to drip tape irrigation systems, and tripping hazards caused by sprinkler pipe are virtually eliminated. Normal drip irrigation maintenance practices apply, including filtration and periodic line flushing.