The Basics Of Fertigation: How Growers Can Implement Fertigation Systems

Traditional fertilization methods can be painstaking for growers, especially those in larger commercial operations. They can involve maneuvering heavy bags, using spreaders for distribution and taking constant measurements by hand.

Standard techniques also make it difficult for growers to supply their crops with a precise amount of fertilizer and nutrients. This can lead to over or under fertilization, which is an all too common issue that is detrimental to crop growth.

For these reasons, more and more growers today are opting to integrate fertigation systems into their operations. By employing fertigation, growers can streamline the application of water and nutrients to their crops. Overall, this practice allows growers to enhance the quality and quantity of their yields, increasing long-term profits and improving their bottom line.

Fertigation Systems Offer A Perfect addition to any growspan greenhouse

Fertigation Overview ►

 

WHAT IS FERTIGATION?

Fertigation is the practice of applying fertilizer through an irrigation system with water soluble nutrients. Its goal is to supply crops with the essential components of proper growth, water and nutrients, via one efficient method.

The level of precision growers can achieve with fertigation helps them target their crops’ nutrient deficiencies, as well as prevent over fertilization, which can lead to nutrient burn and eat into profits. It also allows them to adjust the pH balance of their irrigation supply, so they can maintain an ideal range and optimize their crops’ nutrient absorption.

Fertilizers are highly concentrated, so accurate nutrient measurement and proper system management are critical to achieving consistent, successful harvests. For the best results, growers should keep an average nutrient-to-water ratio of 1-to-100.

IMPORTANT ADVANTAGES

When growers put this practice into action, they can tackle a variety of issues. One of the most important tasks fertigation eliminates is having to measure each batch of nutrient solution and water by hand. Measuring by hand is time consuming and carries a high risk of error.

Once automated, these systems help growers cut down significantly on negative aspects of manual fertilization. This includes factors like time, water and nutrient waste, soil erosion, foliar disease and variations in soil nutrient concentration.

Automated fertigation systems also help growers set and maintain parameters for nutrient application and pH balance. They utilize electrical conductivity (EC) and pH sensors to evaluate irrigation water and make changes based on its nutrient and acid content.

This leads to improved plant growth and drastically reduces labor requirements. As growers focus on other tasks, the sensors ensure that crops are always receiving the optimal amount of nutrients.

Combined with superior climate control, fertigated crops can grow dramatically. They are also less prone to threats, like pests, disease and leaf burn. Leaf burn refers to the browning or yellowing of leaf edges due to contact with fertilizers.

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Traditional fertilizer spreaders tend to place fertilizer outside of the irrigation zone as well. If this occurs, the nutrients can’t be absorbed by crops’ roots. As a result, fertigated crops generally absorb more nutrients than ones that are not.

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DELIVERY METHODS TO FERTIGATE CROPS

Growers can take advantage of fertigation in a number of different ways. Delivery methods for fertigation systems include continuous application, three-stage application, quantitative fertigation and proportional fertigation.

Continuous Application

In this method, growers apply fertilizer into the irrigation from start to finish, regardless of the rate of water discharge from their irrigation system. This is accomplished through center pivot, linear move and traveler sprinkler systems, which are known to increase leaf and fruit quality. To ensure a uniform distribution of chemicals in fertigation systems with this method, fertilizer injection needs to be constant.

Three-Stage Application

As a more unique way of delivering nutrients, fertilizers are not immediately applied to water in this application. Fertilizers are introduced once the growing media is wet, then cut off again before the irrigation cycle is complete. During the remainder of the cycle, the liquid fertilizers are cleared out of the watering system.

QUANTITATIVE METHOD

Through quantitative application, a bypass fertilizer tank deposits a pre-calculated amount of nutrients and water. The amount is based on how much a grower wants their crops to receive. This method is well-suited for automated greenhouse fertigation systems.

drip irrigation and fertigation

Proportional Method

The proportional nutrients application is relatively straightforward and is often used in soilless grows. The fertilizer injection rate is proportional to the water discharge rate, so a precise quantity of solution is delivered to individual units of water in an irrigation system. For instance, growers can configure one liter of nutrient solution to go into 1,000 liters of water for their entire crop.

A backflow prevention device is mandatory in most fertigation systems. The requirements for backflow prevention are determined on a state-by-state basis, so growers will need to be aware of their local codes before introducing fertigation into their operation. Growers should also include spill trays with their fertigation systems to catch any chemical spills.

Fertigation systems can simplify the growing process for operations in virtually any region, regardless of the types of crops they harvest. By reducing daily labor requirements and boosting cost-savings opportunities through fertigation, commercial growers can substantially increase their operation’s profitability.

For more information on fertigation systems and how to introduce fertigation in your operation, call or REQUEST A QUOTEtoday.