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  • Author or Editor: Bee Ling Poh x
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For shallow-rooted vegetables grown in sandy soils with low water-holding capacity (volumetric water content <10%), irrigation water application rate needs to provide sufficient water to meet plant needs, to avoid water movement below the root zone, and to reduce leaching risk. Because most current drip tapes have flow rates (FRs) greater than soil hydraulic conductivity, reducing irrigation operating pressure (OP) as a means to reduce drip emitter FR may allow management of irrigation water application rate. The objectives of this study were to determine the effect of using a reduced system OP (6 and 12 psi) on the FRs, uniformity, and soil wetted depth and width by using three commercially available drip tapes differing in emitter FR at 12 psi (Tape A = 0.19 gal/h, Tape B = 0.22 gal/h, and Tape C = 0.25 gal/h). Reducing OP reduced FRs (Tape A = 0.13 gal/h, Tape B = 0.17 gal/h, and Tape C = 0.16 gal/h) without affecting uniformity of irrigation at 100 and 300 ft lateral runs. Flow rate was also reduced at 300-ft lateral length compared with 100 ft for all three tapes. Uniformity was reduced [“moderate” to “unacceptable” emitter flow variation (q var) and “moderate” coefficient of variation (cv)] at 300 ft for Tape B and C compared with “good” q var and “moderate” to “excellent” cv at 100 ft. Using soluble dye as a tracer, depth (D) of the waterfront response to irrigated volume (V) was quadratic, D = 4.42 + 0.21V − 0.001V 2 (P < 0.01, R 2 = 0.72), at 6 psi, with a similar response at 12 psi, suggesting that depth of the wetted zone was more affected by total volume applied rather than by OP itself. The depth of the wetted zone went below 12 inches when V was ≈45 gal/100 ft, which represented ≈3 h of irrigation at 6 psi and 1.8 h of irrigation at 12 psi for a typical drip tape with FR of 0.24 gal/h at 12 psi. These results show that, for the same volume of water applied, reduced OP allowed extended irrigation time without increasing the wetted depth. OP also did not affect the width (W) of the wetted front, which was quadratic, W = 6.97 + 0.25V − 0.002V 2 (P < 0.01, R 2 = 0.70), at 6 psi. As the maximum wetted width at reduced OP was 53% of the 28-inch-wide bed, reduced OP should be used for two-row planting or drip-injected fumigation only if two drip tapes were used to ensure good coverage and uniform application. Reducing OP offers growers a simple method to reduce FR and apply water at rates that match more closely the hourly evapotranspiration, minimizing the risk of leaching losses.

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Increasing the length of irrigation time by reducing the operating pressure (OP) of drip irrigation systems may result in decreased deep percolation and may allow for reduced nitrogen (N) fertilizer application rates, thereby minimizing the environmental impact of tomato (Solanum lycopersicum) production. The objectives of this study were to determine the effects of irrigation OP (6 and 12 psi), N fertilizer rate (100%, 80%, and 60% of the recommended 200 lb/acre N), and irrigation rates [IRRs (100% and 75% of the target 1000–4000 gal/acre per day)] on fresh-market tomato plant nutritional status and yields. Nitrate (NO3 )–N concentration in petiole sap of ‘Florida 47’ tomatoes grown in Spring 2008 and 2009 in a raised-bed plasticulture system was not significantly affected by treatments in both years and were within the sufficiency ranges at first-flower, 2-inch-diameter fruit, and first-harvest growth stages (420–1150, 450–770, and 260–450 mg·L−1, respectively). In 2008, marketable yields were greater at 6 psi than at 12 psi OP [753 vs. 598 25-lb cartons/acre (P < 0.01)] with no significant difference among N rate treatments. But in 2009, marketable yields were greater at 12 psi [1703 vs. 1563 25-lb cartons/acre at 6 psi (P = 0.05)] and 100% N rate [1761 vs. 1586 25-lb cartons/acre at 60% N rate (P = 0.04)]. Irrigation rate did not have any significant effect (P = 0.59) on tomato marketable yields in either year with no interaction between IRR and N rate or OP treatments. Hence, growing tomatoes at 12 psi OP, 100% of recommended N rate, and 75% of recommended IRR provided the highest marketable yields with least inputs in a drip-irrigated plasticulture system. In addition, these results suggest that smaller amounts of irrigation water and fertilizers (75% and 60% of the recommended IRR and N rate, respectively) could be applied when using a reduced irrigation OP of 6 psi for the early part of the tomato crop season. In the later part of the season, as water demand increased, the standard OP of 12 psi could be used. Changing the irrigation OP offers the grower some flexibility to alter the flow rates to suit the water demands of various growth stages of the crop. Furthermore, it allows irrigation to be applied over an extended period of time, which could better meet the crop's needs for water throughout the day. Such an irrigation strategy could improve water and nutrient use efficiencies and reduce the risks of nutrient leaching. The results also suggest that OP (and flow rate) should be included in production recommendations for drip-irrigated tomato.

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