John & Susan Merrell
41390 Hwy 226
Scio, OR 97374
503-394-3790
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Irrigation Management

Irrigation management will help to increase productivity, lower costs and contribute to the health and value of the land. The lack of an irrigation management program will lead to increased costs and a degraded environment. Proper irrigation will maximize forage production while conserving water and reducing labor.

Irrigation Water Management

If you are fortunate enough to have irrigation on your property, it can be used to significantly increase forage production and the length of the grazing season. Proper management of irrigation water will save expenses related to energy and fertilizers, and will contribute to the health of the environment.

Irrigation Systems

Drip irrigation uses the least amount of water and is the most efficient. This system requires good water quality to avoid emitter plugging, some maintenance, and an initial investment. It is appropriate for trees and other single plants.

Sprinkler irrigation, including handlines, wheel lines and center pivots, uses a moderate amount of water. This system requires labor to move the pipe, some maintenance and a fairly significant initial investment.

"Big gun" sprinkler irrigation applies excess water and doesn't work well on clay type soils. This system requires high electric costs, some maintenance and minimal labor.

Flood irrigation uses lots of water and is least efficient. This system requires labor to turn water on or off the land, is low maintenance, and is the least expensive (if irrigation ditches are present).

Add fish screens to irrigation intake pipes and diversions so that fish don't get sucked in!

When to Irrigate

Irrigate when the soil moisture drops to about 50 percent of its water-holding capacity in the top 3 feet of soil. Check the soil by squeezing several handfuls of soil taken at 6 inch, 12 inch and 18 inch depths in your field. Irrigate before the soil at the 18 inch depth begins to crumble in your hand, since most of the plants' roots are above 18 inches

If there is staining on your fingers from squeezing the soil, wait a couple of days and test the soil again. If the soil feels only slightly moist, forms a slightly crumbly ball when squeezed in your hand, and there is no staining, then it is time to irrigate.

How much to Irrigate

In general, irrigate sandy soils for short periods (2-3 hours) and clay soils for longer periods (9-12 hours). Ask your farm store to recommend the correct size spray nozzle for your soil type and your irrigation system. When it rains, see of the rain has gone deeper than the soil surface before considering it a source of water for you fields.

To determine exactly how long to run your system: (1) Place several straight-walled cans at various locations under your sprinkler system. (2) Run the system for about one hour. Average the depth of the water in the cans. This is your hourly application rate. (3) Divide the inches of water to be replaced by the hourly application rate.

Fore example, loam needs 3.1 inches of water replaced in the top 3 feet wihen it is at 50 percent of its water-holding capacity. If your irrigation system's application rate is .3 inch per hour, you will need to run your irrigation system for ten and a half hours to deliver 3.1 inches to the soil.

Soil Texture Moisture to be replaced in the 3-foot zone when the soil is at 50% of its water-holding capacity Average Peak Season Irrigation Frequency (Adjust for Weather)
Loamy Sand 1.4 inch 5 days
Sandy Loam 2.3 inch 8 days
Loam 3.1 inch 10 days
Clay Loam 3.2 inch 11 days
Clay 3.1 inch 10 days

These are estimates. If your soil depth is less than three feet you will need to irrigate more often and apply less water.

The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, an irrigation company, or a consultant can provide assitance in designing an appropriate system for your property.

 
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