Management of Berry Crops with Drip Irrigation
Irrigation management is essential for high value crops such as blueberries, raspberries and blackberries and farm managers say drip irrigation is an indispensable tool.
Jose Quiñones Solís, of SunnyRidge berry plantation in Tuxpan, Jalisco, Mexico, says drip irrigation helps him manage moisture levels more precisely on the 420-acre berry farm.
“Since these crops require a high investment, we try to protect the life of the plants and the yield as much as possible,” Solís says. “Drip irrigation certainly offers the possibility of successfully managing adequate moisture levels and plant conditions. That is precisely why, since the onset, the project already included drip irrigation.”
Orlando López Jiménez, the engineer responsible for the fertilization, pest control and pruning of blueberries at SunnyRidge, agrees. “The irrigation is more uniform with drip,” he says. “Moisture in irrigated plants is evenly distributed.” Jiménez also likes the benefits a drip irrigation system offers in terms of fertilization. “First and foremost, fertilizer is optimized; there is no waste or loss because the fertilizer is injected into the plant roots,” he says. “Here at the cranberry fields, we use sulfate-based products. And everything is distributed by drip irrigation. We can also apply fungicides, root stimulators and even insecticides using the irrigation system.” Both men like Rivulis Irrigation products for a variety of reasons.
“First of all, we had to make sure that the system was suitable to the region and we had to find suppliers active in the area that could provide us with good service for the irrigation systems. This was crucial to us,” Solís says. The wide range of products and, most importantly, the ability to test the equipment prior to installation is another benefit Rivulis Irrigation offers that Solís appreciates.”
The service offered by Rivulis Irrigation includes the possibility of testing their materials to make sure they will work for us. We don’t introduce any material without testing. And they offer that possibility, buying material that you know is going to work for sure,” Solís says. “They have a wide range of products for different conditions. They have materials for more regular terrain and also for rougher surfaces. That enables us to run tests with their materials, because they offer the advantage of having all kinds of available products in their line.”
“We had another type of drip tape before that resembled paper, because it did not last very long,” Jiménez says. “That tape used to burst with pressure, whereas the new tape from Rivulis Irrigation is lasting even longer than the hose. We recommended [drip irrigation] to all the growers [from other fields under our care] and all of them have installed drip irrigation systems.”
Solís expects to have his system automated within the next few years, saying it will save money and allow better regulation of the water supply.
“Our average equipment operating costs range from $100,000 to $150,000 per year. We expect a 75% cut-back with automation. The automation cost is [somewhere around] $120,000. Therefore, we will get cost benefits. We would be saving labor and operating costs, besides enjoying the advantages of an automated system that will allow us to inject fertilizers and better regulate our crop growing conditions.” *
At Rivulis Irrigation we provide the most reliable integrated ag management solutions, with superior channel partners, to growers that want to optimize operations and output.
— Jose Quiñones Solís and Orlando López Jiménez
Avoid the risk of yield losses with the uniformity achieved by drip irrigation
Blueberry grows best in soils with consistent moisture. That is why irrigation systems are recommended for commercial plantations. Irrigation systems mitigate the risk of experiencing yield or quality losses caused by irregular rainfall during the growing season, while providing consistency in the production that the market requires.
Irrigation is also essential for the establishment and survival of young plants, and it can increase the yield of healthy adult plants up to 40% more than the yield obtained by rain-fed crops.*
Among the irrigation systems used to grow blueberry, drip irrigation is one of the most suitable options, due to the soil moisture uniformity achieved by the system.SunnyRidge, also known as Blueberry Farms of Mexico (BBFM), grows and markets berries on their blueberry plantations in Tuxpan, Jalisco, México. The company decided to install a drip irrigation system from the very beginning.
Due to their shallow root system, blueberry bushes can suffer water stress before other plant species with deep roots. Therefore, the soil’s water holding capacity is an important factor. Overall, we should not only consider the total volume of water applied, but also the coverage pattern and the frequency of application, in order to make sure that the root system has the right quantity of available water.
Drip irrigation emitters are ideal for young plants with immature root systems, since they make more efficient use of water. In the case of adult plants, the humidity bulb must cover 50% of the root zone, requiring the right spacing between the tape emitters.
Another advantage of drip irrigation in blueberry production is the possibility of injecting soluble fertilizers directly to the root. Orlando López Jiménez, responsible for fertilizing and controlling pests and diseases confirms this fact: “fertilizer’s use is optimized; waste and losses are reduced because everything goes directly into the root”.
This system allows for the optimization of fertilizer applications. On one hand, we avoid wasting leached product and on the other hand, we can control how much to apply. This last point is of particular importance, because blueberry plants are highly sensitive to excessive quantities of fertilizer.
In addition to having the right soil moisture conditions, pH is probably the most important success factor in blueberry production. The ideal soil is acidic, with a pH ranging between 4.2 and 5.5 to ensure blueberry’s crop success. Alejandro Barajas Capistran, General Manager in Blueberry Farms of Mexico, says that “maintaining the pH” is one of the many benefits of drip irrigation. *
Indeed, besides injecting fertilizers using the drip irrigation system, it is also possible to apply other products, including rooters, insecticides and products aiming to adjust soil’s pH to the ideal crop range.
Currently, the blueberry cultivars of SunnyRidge de Mexico yield fruits of excellent grades and exceptional taste eight months a year. Careful selection of cultivars, the local climate, and careful water and nutrient management using Rivulis Irrigation’s drip irrigation system, have been decisive success factors.
At Rivulis Irrigation, we provide the most reliable integrated ag water management solutions, with superior channel partners, to growers who want to optimize operations and output.
Ensure your high value crops investment with a broad range of irrigation solutions
José Quiñones Solís is in charge of the design, programming and management of the irrigation system of SunnyRidge Blueberry Farms’ plantation of blueberries in Tuxpan, Jalisco, Mexico. José Quiñones talks about his positive experience with Rivulis Irrigation’s drip irrigation products.
The broad assortment of their irrigation product line was one of the main reasons for choosing this supplier for our drip irrigation system: “They have a broad range of products suitable for different conditions, ranging from more or less regular terrain to rougher surfaces,” he explains.
SunnyRidge Farms’ irrigation manager adds that service was another crucial factor for their decision: “The possibility of testing their materials to make sure that they are going to work, and having their (Rivulis Irrigation’s staff) support is crucial. They are with us at every test,” says Quiñones Solís.
Blueberry is a high value crop that requires a large initial investment as compared to other crops. “Since this crop requires high investment, we do our best to ensure production and plants’ survival. Drip irrigation offers the possibility of managing the moisture levels and the right conditions for plant development in order to obtain a successful crop. That’s why drip irrigation was included in the project from the very beginning,” he affirms.
From the start of this project, Rivulis Irrigation’s drip irrigation materials have proven to be the best for this kind of operation. “Rivulis Irrigation’s materials have given the best results. We are currently testing self-compensated anti-drain emitters that will surely give good results in more irregular topographic conditions. They have a broad range of products suitable for different conditions.”
Besides blueberries, SunnyRidge grows raspberries and blackberries in Mexico. One of the products being tested at the raspberry plantation is Hydro PCND, a pressure self-compensated anti-drain drip irrigation product line including cylindrical flow-regulating emitters.
Hydro PCND has a highly sensitive floating diaphragm that regulates and maintains a consistent flow rate, despite inlet’s pressure variations. Besides flow regulation, Hydro PCND has anti-drain characteristics. The flow of water at the emitters is interrupted when the pressure drop goes down beyond a certain limit. The anti-drain feature protects the tape against the entrance of small soil particles when the system shuts down. Since every emitter has two outlets, Hydro PCND continues distributing the right quantity of water throughout the field.
Hydro PCND line is the ideal underground drip irrigation system. Just like Hydro PC, Hydro PCND has high anti-clogging resistance due to the design and the size of the emitter’s dripping channel. On the other hand, the self-cleaning mechanism allows for continuous rinsing of the filter located at the emitter’s tape inlet.
Quiñones Solís affirms that durability of the self-compensated system will enable them to keep the same drip irrigation lines at least 8 to 10 years, which is equal to the crops’ life span. The resins in the lines resist UVA degradation and the usual damage caused by fertilizers and other chemicals, increasing the duty cycle of the irrigation line.*
Since the crop is placed in elevated beds, with buried drip irrigation tape under plastic mulching, “it would be too complicated, to remove the plastic mulching when the crop has grown to replace the tape (drip irrigation tape). With this type of materials, we won’t have any waste”, he says.
At Rivulis Irrigation we provide the most reliable integrated ag water management solutions, with superior channel partners, to growers that want to optimize operations and output.
*Disclaimer: Production results with an irrigation system may vary depending upon a variety of factors, including the following: management and maintenance of the irrigation system, fertilization management, type of crop, weather conditions, type of soil and pest control.