PIKETON, Ohio -- Irrigation may be a crucial investment for specialty crop production in Ohio, but it can break the bank if managed inefficiently. Ohio State University Extension horticulturists are evaluating new irrigation systems that target the right amount of water where the plants need it.
Researchers at OSU South Centers at Piketon have established a drip irrigation research and education unit, in partnership with the Ohio-Israel Agricultural Initiative of The Negev Foundation, to evaluate new irrigation technology that reduces water usage and improves application efficiency.
Brad Bergefurd, an OSU Extension horticulturist, said the drip irrigation research evolved from an Ohio Green Industry Technological and Trade Mission to Israel, where such technology is in wide use.
"Since Ohio has adopted many Israeli production techniques that are currently being used in Ohio commercial horticulture industries, I wanted to use this study tour opportunity to view research and production in Israel," said Bergefurd. "I wanted to see what new techniques are being used there and to bring back ideas of what can be researched by Ohio State University for future adoption by Ohio growers."
Bergefurd said that the drip irrigation technology, not currently available for commercial use in the United States, uses drip sticks, drip tape, multiple outlet drippers and streamline drip tubing that not only waters plant foliage, but also targets plant roots. The system, unlike traditional overhead irrigation, is suited for small parcels of land and high tunnel systems, as well as nursery/greenhouses, hydroponics, and fruit production, such as plasticulture strawberries.
"The drip irrigation technology has the ability to reduce water consumption up to 50 percent compared to overhead irrigation systems. Some of the technology uses a very small flow rate -- .16 to .24 gallons per hour," said Bergefurd. "The technology uses water more efficiently and spreads water more uniformly so there is no waste. It puts the water right where the crop needs it most."
Bergefurd and his colleagues recently demonstrated the system at a Horticultural Field Night at OSU South Centers to educate producers on how the system works and how it can be incorporated into their specialty crop operations if adopted. Farmers can learn more about the drip irrigation technology at Farm Science Review, Sept. 16-18 at the Molly Caren Agricultural Center in London, Ohio. A tabletop demonstration of the technology will be on display at the Ohio-Israel Ag Initiative's Israel Agriculture Pavilion, located on Conservation Avenue near Gate A.
"Water is an important resource in agriculture and is especially crucial when dealing with high-value specialty crops. If you don't get the right amount of water, you can't grow the crop," said Bergefurd. "When you've got thousands of dollars invested, $10,000 an acre in plasticulture strawberries for example, you can't go without irrigation."
Bergefurd said that the drip irrigation research and education unit will be an ongoing project at OSU South Centers.
"We sit in one of the driest areas of the state. What better place to evaluate drip irrigation technology than at OSU South Centers," said Bergefurd.
To learn more about the technology or to view the drip irrigation research and education unit at OSU South Centers, contact Brad Bergefurd at (740) 289-2071.
To learn more about Farm Science Review, log on to http://fsr.osu.edu. Tickets are $8 at the gate or $5 in advance when purchased from county offices of OSU Extension or participating agribusinesses. Children 5 and younger are admitted free. Hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sept. 16-17 and 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sept. 18.