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.
Deep-rooting alfalfa is proven to respond exceedingly well to the application of water by SDI, resulting in vigorous, faster-growing plants and overall higher yield production, improving plant nutrition, reducing plant stress, improving water efficiency and decreasing weed growth.
The efficiency of a Subsurface Drip Irrigation system can significantly reduce alfalfa growers input costs by increasing fertilizer efficiency, reducing water use, reducing labor and reducing energy use.
A Subsurface Drip Irrigation system can increase the efficiency of alfalfa growers’ overall operation.
From seasonal to permanent systems, only Netafim offers complete integrated and customized drip irrigation systems, coupled with exceptional customer support.
FlexNet™ is a high-performance, flexible, lightweight piping solution. It’s offered in a wide range of diameters with integral welded connectors which ensure a leak-proof connection. It’s proven to reduce the overall material and labor costs of an entire irrigation system.Flexible Pipe Solution
With an eye towards efficiency and cost savings, a young farm manager uses drip irrigation as a means to irrigate alfalfa more effectively. “My primary goal for shifting to a Netafim drip irrigation system was to become more efficient with our resources, and ultimately more profitable,” says Seth Rossow, Farm Manager for Bert Wilgenberg Farms.
“It’s all about timing.” That’s how Roger Cornwell feels about many things - life,
farming, and especially his drip irrigation system from Netafim.
Richie Gunter is excited about the future of agriculture. Gunter, a retired Marine Corps veteran who felt called to serve his country after September 11, now farms just outside of Woodland, California. Currently, he has 100 acres of alfalfa on drip irrigation and says drip is the future of farming.
For the Maddox family, early innovation has been something of a trademark for their farming operation. Whether it has been the innovations in the dairy breeding program for Holstein cows to those which support the dairy, new programs and efficiencies remain a vital part of the business.
When Russell Schafer was hired at Wegis & Young in Buttonwillow, California,
his job was to drive innovation throughout the conglomerate’s farming operation. As the 31-year-old began to explore the various areas of the business where the largest efficiencies could be gained, one of the most obvious answers was its irrigation systems.
Nico Slabber’s roots in agriculture run deep - no pun intended. As a native of
Zimbabwe who came to the United States after also farming in South Africa,
Slabber understands the potential of technology in agriculture and the vital role drip irrigation plays in the imminent needs of the industry.