March/April 2022 - 20

FERTIGATION TECH
NEW TECH TO SOLVE
FERTIGATION INEFFICIENCIES
With limited water in the West, and costly inputs everywhere,
fertigation tech can make the best of both worlds.
BY SUREFIRE AG SYSTEMS
F
ertigation is common practice in the irrigated
agriculture of the western United States. However, it
has traditionally been labor intensive. New technologies
now available to producers are reducing labor required,
improving accuracy and eliminating dreaded mistakes.
A big issue facing nut growers today is ensuring that they
are applying the correct amount of fertilizer when they are
irrigating. The lack of, or reduction in, available water in the
West has made irrigation and fertigation systems the most
essential part of a nut growing operation. Growers simply can't
have any errors with their fertigation as the cost of water -
and lack of water - prohibits growers from 'just running the
water again' if the old fertigation pump shuts down. Growers
are relying on technology for all facets of their business,
and using technology to ensure that fertigation plans go off
without a hitch is an example of technology saving money and
time while avoiding decreased yields.
Fertigation systems are designed to aid plants during
their growing cycles by providing their needed nutrients
via treated water applied through an irrigation system.
Originally, this process had to be performed manually
using a pump operated by a user present at the irrigation
site. But this is an expensive practice with higher labor
costs associated with starting the pumps, mixing chemicals,
shutting off the system, checking flow rates, etc. Other
downsides of fertigation included mismanaged dosing,
resulting in environmental pollution or damaged crop yields.
But as fertigation has gained popularity, agriculture
manufacturers have evolved to meet the needs of the
producer and solve some of these problems. The result is new
technology that allows these processes to be automated with
irrigation injection systems. Not only can these electronic
systems be controlled remotely, but they are more accurate
20 MARCH/APRIL 2022
and reliable. They also come equipped with a variety of other
features, such as pH dosers, targeted dosing, scheduled dosing,
mobile or emailed alerts and more. These features are useful
for just about any crop producer, but they're especially helpful
for greenhouses, nut growers, produce farmers and other
orchards and other specialty crops.
" We shouldn't have to babysit fertilizer pumps, " said Nic
Marchini, an almond grower using a fertigation system
known as Marksman. " We have a lot of different pumping
sites, and our average field is 50-60 acres. We have to be in
a lot of places at once. That gets very cumbersome with our
management. " Marchini's system has eliminated the need to
be everywhere at once.
Not only do these automated systems allow producers
to operate them remotely, but they also allow accurate and
precise control of the concentration, balance and rate the
fertilizer is being applied. They are also easy to monitor, and
greatly reduce the chances of plant injury because the system
has built-in alerts and shut-offs if problems arise during
application. Producers simply enter the exact rate (GPH)
for the fertilizer they would like to apply, while also giving
the plant the water and nutrients it needs. There are many
positives in utilizing fertigation. Merging the irrigation and
fertilization processes provides better time optimization and
can be an easy add-on for producers who are already utilizing
an irrigation system.
" Reducing labor costs and more closely monitoring the
system is a big reason people look to automated systems on
the market, " said Bryan Gran, territory manager for SureFire
Ag Systems. " But they also improve record keeping, allow
users to store recipes and reduce fertilizer waste. And they
can be tailored to the crop needs. Irrigation injection systems
are important assets that will pay for themselves. "

March/April 2022

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of March/April 2022

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