Banner Harvesting Market-Ready Fruit through Precision Irrigation

Harvesting Market-Ready Fruit through Precision Irrigation

Delivering fresh fruit from farm to table is no easy feat. American growers in the fresh fruit market face a myriad of operational challenges in the field, such as rising input costs, reduced land availability, and increased overseas competition. Fruit can spoil or be damaged from freight transportation. Today’s consumers also expect nothing less than cosmetically perfect fruit, so fruit production requires more strategy and smarter optimization than ever before.

Growing fruit is uniquely challenging because it requires meticulous crop manipulation and planning to harvest at peak ripeness. It’s not surprising that growers who specialize in high-dollar fruit commodities were some of the earliest adopters of precision irrigation solutions, like smart sensors and fertigation methods.

Precision irrigation is a sustainable irrigation scheduling system that delivers applications of water and nutrients to a plant at the right time and place in small, measured doses, which provides optimal growing conditions.

Anyone growing the most marketable citrus and stone fruits, from avocados to dates, must consider how precision irrigation can lead to a more profitable harvest. Here are a few insights from our team of growing experts:

Meet Both Tree and Market Demands

Adjusting to regional microclimates and soil conditions is key to a tree's success. Growers account for sun, shade, precipitation, and wind, then optimize soil conditions by checking and adjusting a soil’s pH balance level, nutrient availability, and water-holding capacity. The right balance contributes to a healthy, stress-free tree.

Not only do these details help a tree's survival, but they are also key for marketability. Fruits destined for the supermarket are held to high standards, some based on USDA grading, others simply on consumers' demanding expectations for fruit to be the same size, color, and sugar level. Fruit that does not meet these standards is demoted to less profitable commodity markets like juicing and canned food items – or worse, considered waste.

Growing fruit is exceptionally labor-intensive. According to the USDA, managing labor can account for nearly 38% percent of total production expenses. Premium growers may even hand-pick some of their fruit rather than use machines. So, naturally, achieving uniformity and predictable harvests becomes critical to turning around a grower’s return on investment.

Deliver Proper Nutrition for Uniform Growth

Proper watering is critical, especially during the early stages of a tree's growth. The appropriate timing of water and nutrient applications can affect both the quantity and the quality of a tree’s yield.

While sprinklers and flood systems are still used in many tree orchards, only precision irrigation allows for daily water delivery with +90% uniformity, meaning all trees receive the correct portion of water and nutrients to optimize the amount of oxygen in their soil. Water delivered at a slow, timed application rate means trees are "fed" regularly, contributing to more uniform fruit.

Guard Against Imperfections and Impurities

So why is uniform fruit so important? All fruits are susceptible to molds, mildew, scarring, and other impurities. Proper irrigation allows the fruit to receive only the necessary amounts of water, eliminating standing water often seen as a petri-dish environment that can lead to diseases, fungus, and early rotting. Precision irrigation applies water directly to the roots of a tree, allowing for water to remain where it's needed and not invite weeds or create damp, harmful soil conditions.

Maintain Strong, Grounded Roots

Another essential advantage of precision irrigation is the ability to allow trees to anchor down and grow deep, strong roots. Conventional irrigation through flooding or sprinkler systems penetrates the soil with large volumes of water, which inhibits the roots from having the correct balance for healthy roots to reach the appropriate depth.

Roots need to be able to "breathe" by receiving a proper air-water mixture, and precise water application prevents shallow root growth. Inconsistent surface watering can lead to an unstable root system, a higher risk of uprooting, and increased odds of falling in strong, windy conditions. Precision irrigation allows a tree to anchor firmly and increases its longevity.

Achieve Market-Ready Fruit with Netafim USA

As industry growers will tell you, many have had to use land previously unsuitable for farming of any kind. Scenes of rolling hills of vineyards and endless acres of orchards are now made possible due to the developments in precision irrigation.

Netafim currently offers products designed to meet the water application needs of permanent crops such as fruit trees. Growers interested in delivering high-performing applications on steep topographies count on Netafim’s pressure-compensating emitters and micro-sprinklers. DripNet PC™ is a heavy wall solution that allows for high uniformity on steep terrains. Others dealing with the most challenging conditions can depend on UniRam™, the world's most advanced pressure compensated drip line for any topography and water quality condition. For those that prefer a micro sprinkler for frost protection, soil leaching, or cover crop can turn to the industry-leading SuperNet™ sprinkler.

Regardless of what you’re in the business of growing, Netafim’s agronomy experts stand ready to offer specialized guidance to help you grow market-ready crops.

Interested in knowing more?

Interested in knowing more?