By Ajia Paolillo
To keep your irrigation system running efficiently, it is important to perform routine maintenance throughout the year. There are many types of issues that can affect your irrigation system, causing it to run poorly. Poly tubing and emitters can become clogged. Emitters can be blocked by weeds or broken through normal wear and tear.
When these issues happen, trees receive inadequate amounts of water, leading to tree stress, poor tree health and ultimately reduced fruit quality and yield. Emitters and poly tubing should be inspected routinely for clogging issues and line breaks, which should be repaired immediately. Broken or missing emitters waste water and do not apply water evenly to the root zone.
What factors can lead to irrigation system clogging? Irrigation water with a high pH or containing high levels of minerals such as calcium, magnesium and iron can clog emitters when combined with some liquid fertilizers. Growers with clogging issues can test their water sources for pH and mineral concentration to determine if acidification would result in a decreased incidence of clogging.
Solids such as soil particles, bacteria and algae from poorly filtered water sources can also contribute to clogged systems. There are different types of filters used to eliminate these types of obstructions from the water before they move through the lines. Choose filters that are appropriate for your operation’s needs and remember to clean filters on a regular basis to keep water flowing efficiently. Ants and snails are known to clog irrigation lines by entering the tubing and blocking emitters when high populations are present.
Evidence of clogged lines and emitters can be wilted trees. Also due to a blocked or partially blocked emitter, the wetted area is smaller than normal, which could trigger false readings in moisture sensors and can result in dry spots.
Three methods used for clearing irrigation lines are acidification, chlorination and flushing (Kadyampakeni and Schumann, 2020). Acidification will aid in lowering the pH of the irrigation water to prevent clogging from mineral deposits. Chlorination will help clear living organisms such as bacteria and algae from the lines. Flushing will physically force deposits, solids, insects and snail shells from the lines.
Be sure to routinely inspect your irrigation system to keep it running properly. Read more on irrigation maintenance.
Ajia Paolillo is a University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension multi-county citrus agent based in Arcadia.