Micro irrigation has become an essential part of efficient farming, helping growers get the most yield from their crops for the dollar invested. Although there are a few varieties of micro irrigation systems with several different options, they all involve basically the same setup. Installing most micro irrigation systems is fairly simple and can be accomplished by a farmer using the parts referenced below. A micro irrigation systems professional can also be hired to do the installation work.

From the source of water, to the plants being irrigated, micro drip irrigation systems are comprised of three main parts: control system; delivery system; and emissions system. There are multiple parts to each of these systems that are built together to create an entire setup.

Control System

The control system handles the entire micro irrigation system that delivers a specified amount of water to plants based on the size of the system, its components, and other variables that affect water delivery. It consists of the following:

  • Flow Meters – Control the amount of water passing through the micro irrigation system from the source of water.
  • Pressure Gauges – Used in various places throughout the system to measure water pressure in different areas.
  • Control Valves – Control water flow to different zones when systems are designed to irrigate multiple areas.
  • Irrigation Controllers – These are electronic control valves designed to stop and start the system , based on how they are programmed.

Delivery System

The delivery system distributes water from the source to the emitters that irrigate the plants. This system includes the following:

  • Pipe, Fittings and Tubing - Used throughout the irrigation system to move water from the pumps to the irrigation heads. PVC is generally used as a mainline delivery to fields, while tubing is used from mainlines to emitters. Fittings connect various sections together.
  • Flush and Vacuum Relief Valves – Utilized to clean out the irrigation system and release any air trapped in lines that might prevent water delivery.
  • Pressure Regulators – Employed to control water pressure to downstream lines to prevent damage due to high pressure.
  • Chemical Injectors – Installed into irrigation lines for cleaning out the system or providing plant food in the irrigation water.
  • Filters – Set up at the beginning of the delivery line when water is sourced from ponds or other reservoirs to filter out dirt or particles in the water that might plug the system.

Emissions System

Emissions devices differ based on how water must be delivered. Emitters are connected by flexible tubing and are last in the delivery system. They differ in type, pressure, and drip rate - all of which must be considered before deciding on a specific type of irrigator. Following are the various types of emitters:

  • Drip Tape or Drip Line – Tube laid on or in the ground; includes regularly spaced emitters that seep water along its length.
  • On-line or In-Line Emitters – Tubing with emitters that deliver water in specific spots. The only difference in these two types is on-line emitters must be hand-installed into tubing at required intervals, while in-line emitters are  factory installed inside tubing at various intervals to save installation time.
  • Micro-sprinklers – Small sprinkler heads that emit water in a circle around the root area of plants.
  • MIsters – Emitters that deliver a fine, continuous mist of water to plants.
  • Jets – Emitters that jettison water to land in specific areas to send larger amounts of water at one time.

Although all micro irrigation systems will likely use similar parts, variables such as water pressure, line types, and other necessary parts will depend on the type of emitter used and the type of plant being irrigated. Micro irrigation systems may seem complex; however, their basic design is fairly simple. Growers should start with the emitters required, and build to gradually connect them to a water pump. Things such as pressure, filters, and different watering zones must be considered. One system can be used to irrigate multiple zones in various ways if the system is installed to account for any differences in pressure and water delivery requirements.

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