This research tests the hypothesis that decreasing lateral spacing from 45 to 35 feet in solid-set sprinkler systems increases the uniformity of irrigation water distribution and improves water and N fertilizer use efficiencies. Three different spacings between sprinkler laterals (35', 40', and 45') were set up in three blocks in a 60-acre commercial carrot field in Western Kern County in California's San Joaquin Valley. Determinations of irrigation water distribution uniformity, yields, crop water use, plant growth, and nitrate leaching were made. Mean sprinkler distribution uniformities (DU) were found to be 80.6%, 78.1%, and 86% for the 35-, 40-, and 45-ft spacings, respectively. Total carrot yield and quality did not differ significantly among the three spacings, corroborating the finding that irrigation uniformities were similar among the treatments. Although the three lateral spacings evaluated in this initial experiment did not result in major differences in irrigation uniformity, total yields, or quality, the findings of this initial stage of our research are significant. They point to the need for new assessments of currently used protocols for evaluating sprinkler irrigation management of water and nitrogen fertilizer if they can be confirmed by repeated trials in coming years.
Optimal water management is essential in irrigated agricultural regions to sustain productivity, conserve water resources and protect groundwater quality. The southern San Joaquin Valley (SJV) of California is a major irrigated production region in which solid set sprinkler systems are commonly used to grow such crops as carrots (Daucus carota L.), potatoes (Solanum tuberosum L.), garlic (Allium sativum L.) and onions (Allium cepa L.) in predominantly sandy soils. Water and fertilizer use efficiencies are important concerns in this region. In 1996 and 1997, we evaluated the effects of three sprinkler spacings [32.2, 38.6 and 45 ft (9.8, 11.8 and 13.7 m)] and irrigation uniformity within these spacings on carrot yield, quality and nitrogen content. Applied water and soil nitrate and ammonium contents were monitored at four locations within each sprinkler lateral spacing throughout both seasons. Neither sprinkler spacing nor location within a given sprinkler spacing affected carrot production or quality. Distributions of soil nitrate and ammonium resulting from the different sprinkler spacings were also not correlated with carrot yields. These results suggest that any of the three spacings can be used for high carrot quality and productivity.