Fruit and vegetable irrigation efficiency featured at 2018 MSU Agriculture Innovation Day

Even in a state with abundant water resources like Michigan, fruit and vegetable growers utilize irrigation as an important risk management tool.

Drip irrigation uses water efficiently in fruit and vegetable crop applications.
Drip irrigation uses water efficiently in fruit and vegetable crop applications.

Improper use of irrigation through over-application can lead to increased root and foliar diseases, leaching of nutrients and wasting water – one of Michigan’s most valuable natural resources. Over-irrigation can result in economic loss for growers through unnecessary equipment operation and nutrients leaching beyond the root zone. On the contrary, not enough water during growing season dry spells leads to economic loss through reduced quality and yield. If you are an agricultural irrigator, it pays at both ends of the water use spectrum to use it properly.

Drip Irrigation offers many advantages when it comes to irrigating. It is often not suitable for field crops, root crops and some other vegetables. However, on many fruit and vegetable crops it has proven itself repeatedly to be a better method of water application. Drip irrigation uses water more efficiently, allowing water application to occur only where needed. Harvest and tilling can also continue during drip irrigation events, it does not wet foliage contributing to disease, and can occur during the middle of the day with minimal evaporation, when plants need water the most. Another advantage is that it allows irrigators to deliver nutrients to plants on a weekly, daily or continual basis rather than large amounts one or two times during the season. This maximizes nutrient efficiency by minimizing leaching, runoff and volatilization.

How drip irrigators can best utilize their irrigation systems will be one of many topics emphasized at MSU Agriculture Innovation Day: Focus on Fruit and Vegetable Technologies. During a morning session entitled “Irrigation: Getting the Most from Your Irrigation Inputs,” attendees will be able to observe demonstrations on how to maximize nutrient delivery and uptake while reducing leaching potential. Demonstrations will involve injection of dye through the irrigation system allowing for observation on how water travels through the soil viewed in excavated pits. Comparisons of flow patterns from surface and sub-surface drip on sweet corn and effect of different emitter spacing and application rates on drip under plastic irrigating tomatoes will be shown.

Various types of soil moisture sensors will be installed with comparisons available for session attendees to view results with measured soil moisture. Impact of soil texture on sensor reading will also be discussed.

MSU Agriculture Innovation Day: Focus on Fruit and Vegetable Technologies, 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m. June 28 at the MSU Southwest Research and Extension Center in Benton Harbor, Michigan, offers a variety of fruit, vegetable and grape growing technologies, including the latest information on pollinators and equipment. The event has been approved for Restricted Use Pesticide Credits (6 credits) and Certified Crop Advisor CEUs in Integrated Pest Management, Crop Management, Soil and Water Management and Sustainability. For detailed session descriptions, visit  or contact Ron Bates at

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