Diurnal effects on the efficiency of drip irrigation

From the report “Diurnal effects on the efficiency of drip irrigation“, of Warwick R. Adams and Ketema T. Zeleke, published at Irrigation Science

Trickle (‘drip’) irrigation, a widely utilised irrigation method in viticulture, involves application of water at a slow rate from regularly spaced point sources (or emitters) above the soil surface. It is a relatively efficient means of irrigation, especially when combined with techniques such as regulated deficit irrigation, partial rootzone drying, subsurface drip irrigation and application of mulches. However, one aspect that requires further investigation is the potential for water savings by irrigating at only particular times of the day, to take advantage of diurnal factors.

However, there has been little evidence to date regarding the net effects of diurnal factors on drip irrigation and whether or not irrigating early morning compared to in the afternoon changes the water use efficiency.

A field experimenton vineyard was undertaken to investigate the diurnal factors and to quantify any effects on irrigation efficiency.

It showed that, for soil depths >15 cm, drip irrigation efficiency is not affected by the time of day of watering—there were no diurnal effects and the results did not support a long-held belief that watering in the heat of the day should be avoided.

At shallow depths (from 0 to 15 cm), afternoon irrigation actually resulted in a higher moisture content in this layer, with some of that difference persisting over the following 72 h.

This finding also has the potential to be applied to irrigation scheduling for salad vegetables and similar shallow-rooted crops, which typically take up most of their plant water from depths <25 cm, where, by irrigating in the afternoon rather than early morning, water usage could be reduced while at the same time potentially increasing the yield.