07/11/2022 | Environmental | 8 MINUTE READ
Fertigation and Nutrient Management
Primarily used by commercial growers, fertigation is a popular growing process that’s designed to combine irrigation with fertilization, which means that fertilizer is added directly to some type of irrigation system. Because of how the fertigation process works, it’s effective when applied to a large area of crops and is able to provide growers with many benefits.
Many growers will use fertigation as opposed to more traditional forms of fertilization because of the belief that fertigation is able to more effectively target the nutrient deficiencies that a plant might have. Fertigation is also known to reduce total water consumption, soil erosion, and the amount of fertilizer growers use. If you want to use fertigation for your crops, this system allows you to control the rate and time at which the fertilizer is released.
If you’d like to make sure that your fertigation system is long-lasting, it’s highly recommended that you test the pH of the nutrient-rich solution that you use for fertilization purposes. If this solution is too acidic, the metallic parts in the fertigation system may eventually corrode. The following offers an informative guide on fertigation and how to manage the nutrients you use.
What is Fertigation?
Fertigation is a fertilizing technique that combines fertilizer with irrigation. In most cases, fertilizer is introduced to irrigation water via a drip system, which allows the fertilizer to be evenly distributed to all of the crops that the irrigation system supports.
Because of the high amount of nutrients that are used with this crop growing method, fertigation is considered to be highly efficient. Keep in mind that water soluble fertilizers and liquid fertilizers can be applied. Regardless of the option you use, the efficiency of your irrigation system may increase by upwards of 80-90%.
Fertigation and pH Management
While fertigation systems can be highly advantageous for many growers, there are also some considerations that every grower must take into account to make sure that the system functions properly. For instance, the solution’s pH must be at the ideal level to ensure that plant roots don’t become damaged and that the essential nutrients are effectively dissolved in your preferred solution.
If these nutrients don’t dissolve correctly, precipitates could form and eventually cause blockages within the irrigation system. When these blockages occur, the nutrients won’t be delivered to the plants that need them. Performing irrigation involves applying nutrients or fertilizers into a growing system through an irrigation network, after which the nutrients are properly dissolved in the water before being absorbed by any surrounding plants. Even though this growing technique has become increasingly popular over the past two decades, it has existed for centuries.
Fertigation Methods and Compounds
Keep in mind that fertigation doesn’t work with just one type of irrigation system. You can combine fertilizer with soaker, drip, and sprinkler irrigation systems. However, drip irrigation system have proven to be the most effective when used for fertigation purposes. Since fertigation involves plants soaking up a nutrient-rich solution, this growing method is similar to the one displayed by hydroponic systems. Unlike standard outdoor growing methods, fertigation gives you the ability to control the types and amounts of nutrients your crops receive.
While there are many different compounds that can be used with a fertigation system, the most common compounds include nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorous because of how versatile they are. All three compounds can boost the development and growth of numerous crop species. The specific details of how a fertigation system works depends on the size and scale of the particular farming irrigation as well as the type of irrigation system that you’re using.
Fertigation Best Practices
The most advanced systems will use automated schedules to make the process of applying the fertilizer much more convenient. On the other hand, small-scale farms are typically required to perform these tasks manually. Liquid fertilizer is usually stored in spacious tanks before an injector or dripper sends specific amounts of fertilizer into the irrigation system.
Before you install a fertigation system, make sure that you use a fertilizer that your plants will respond well to. The wrong fertilizer choice could create issues with efficiency. When you select a fertilizer to use with your fertigation system, you should identify how acidic, soluble, and compatible the nutrients are with your primary crops.
The main compound in the nutrient-based solution should meet the needs that each plant has. It’s also highly recommended that you consider the type of soil you use as well as its acidity. The nutrients you use will interact with your soil and potentially change the soil’s pH levels. In this situation, your soil could become too alkaline or acidic.
Many regions have agricultural bylaws that commercial growers must adhere to. These bylaws indicate that any fertigation system that’s operational will need to be outfitted with a back-flow prevention device to ensure that the primary water source for the irrigation system isn’t contaminated. In the event that contamination occurs, drinking water sources could also be contaminated. When contamination takes place, costly water treatment techniques would likely need to be used to ensure that the water is drinkable.
Why and When Should We Use Fertigation?
There are many reasons why fertigation has become popular among commercial growers, the primary of which is that this process streamlines agricultural fertilization even when fertilizing large areas of crops. When used properly, fertigation is able to add extra nutrients or correct any nutrient deficiencies that might exist in plants. These deficiencies can be identified with plant tissue analysis.
Fertigation is able to produce healthy and strong plants that have a similar size. The fertilizer that’s used with this system is sent directly to the roots of each plant, which allows the plant to better absorb the nutrient-based solution. In this situation, you’ll benefit from larger harvests for every acre of crops when compared to any other irrigation system. Using a fertigation system also means that personnel won’t need to come into contact with your plants on a regular basis, which reduces the possibility of disease or infection.
Using this particular growing method provides growers with the opportunity to fertilize or irrigate their fields at the perfect time of the day, which isn’t possible with other growing techniques. This system should help you have money on labor expenses as well. When you outfit your farm or piece of land with a fertigation system, you’ll be able to do your part to protect the environment.
This system is designed to make sure that fertilizers and chemicals used during the growing process don’t wash away into the groundwater, which could lead to other water sources being contaminated. With the right approach, the irrigation system you use should allow you to improve crop yields.
What Are the Benefits of Fertigation? Is Fertigation Better than Standard Fertilization?
There are many distinct benefits associated with using fertigation as opposed to band or broadcast fertilization. For one, nutrients are supplied to the plants consistently, which gets rid of nutrient concentration fluctuations within the soil. It’s also possible to control how the nutrients are used and applied to the crops, which should help you obtain better yields.
Keep in mind that this technique allows nutrients to be sent to the soil even when the crop or soil conditions don’t permit standard nutrient application. Some additional benefits associated with drip fertigation include:
- Nutrients are only applied to soil that’s situated nearby roots, which reduces the amount of nutrient loss
- The wind shouldn’t create issues with the growing process
- Runoff is effectively avoided
- Crop foliage will be dry, which means that diseases and pests should be mitigated
When you apply fertilizer and water evenly to every crop in your grow area, you may be able to obtain yields that are upwards of 25-50% higher than what they are with traditional growing methods. As mentioned previously, fertilizer efficiency improves by around 80-90% when properly applied with a fertigation system. Along with a reduction in water and fertilizer consumption, you should also be able to substantially lessen the amount of labor, time, and energy that must be used during the growing process.
Before you use fertigation for your crop growing needs, keep in mind that fertilizer efficiency depends on the main compound that you’re using in the fertilizer. For instance, using fertigation with nitrogen will allow for an efficiency rate of around 95%. In comparison, the efficiency rate with standard soil application is only 30-50%. In the event that you use a compound like potassium, the fertigation efficiency rate is around 80%, which is much higher than the 50% efficiency rate provided with standard soil application. Instrumentation for monitoring EC (electrical conductivity) and pH will ensure correct concentration and optimum pH for nutrient uptake.
If you grow a considerable amount of crops every season and are searching for ways to improve yields and save money, you should look into fertigation and the many benefits it provides. As long as you use the right irrigation system, fertigation can be applied to nearly every type of crop. By making sure that your crops always have access to the nutrients they require, it’s much more likely that you’ll avoid poor yields.