Alfalfa is a crop that has been predominately grown in the western United States dating back to the Gold Rush days. It is the third most valuable crop in the United States, behind corn and soybeans, but its true economic impact is much greater as it provides the high energy feed for dairy cows as well as other types of livestock. Production of Alfalfa has steadily increased because of its strong vitality, adaptability, high production level, superior quality, and multiple uses. Alfalfa is a water-intensive crop but, despite its high demand for water, alfalfa is also heralded for its high water-use efficiency (the amount of water required to produce a unit of crop yield). Because alfalfa is able to utilize nearly all of the water applied to its root zone, drip irrigation is the ideal method for meeting the crops watering demands.
Alfalfa is a uniquely-demanding, water-intensive, perennial crop with a deep root system. But even a little stress caused by too much or too little water will have a negative effect on its growth, development and overall stand quality. That’s why unpredictable climates and wasteful irrigation methods like flood aren’t good enough – you need consistency, not vulnerability to over or undernourishment.
Irrigating alfalfa is much different than irrigating most other crops because it is a perennial crop with a deep root system that can pull water from deep within the soil profile. Of the common agronomic crops, alfalfa consumes the largest amount of water. Its consumptive use can exceed 46 inches of water in a typical year. Among the many challenges, growers are faced with is the fact that stress caused by too much or too little water has a direct effect on alfalfa yields, crop growth, development, and overall stand quality. It is for this reason that growers are always evaluating their irrigation methods to ensure they are using the most efficient method possible. Learn more about the different methods of irrigation being employed by today’s growers.
Today’s Alfalfa growers are primarily using three methods of irrigation: Flood, Center Pivot and Subsurface Drip irrigation.
Subsurface Drip Irrigation (SDI) is a management tool that helps you gain control of the root zone environment by delivering water and nutrients straight to the roots of each plant. It helps you maintain optimal soil moisture levels, uniformly across your field, with better aeration. The result is increased yields, reduced water needs, and runoff, better management of crop quality, and less fertilizer and labor cost.
Additionally, you can use digital control systems to monitor and optimize your yield as it’s growing, gaining data about every stage of the alfalfa lifecycle.
From the invention of the first hoe to today’s GPS-based harvesters, every advancement in farming has been brought about in an effort to increase the efficiency of farming operations, provide farmers with better control over resources and produce higher-yielding crops with fewer input costs. Providing growers with a management tool that increases crop yields decrease input costs and increases operational efficiency, subsurface drip irrigation (SDI) just makes sense.
From seasonal to permanent systems, only Netafim offers complete integrated and customized drip irrigation systems, coupled with exceptional customer support.