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Poly-irrigation: what it is, advantages, disadvantages, methods used, and benefits when using plastic tubes/pipes

Poly-irrigation: what it is, advantages, disadvantages, methods used, and benefits when using plastic tubes/pipes

One of the most important aspects that come into play in the agricultural process is irrigation, not only to keep the cropland in good condition, ensuring its sustainability over time but also to guarantee that the products obtained are of high quality. In this opportunity, we will talk about poly-irrigation and poly tube irrigation, some of the methods used to carry it out, and its benefits.

It is no secret that proper irrigation is a task that requires expertise and knowledge since it isn’t a matter of pouring water just for the sake of it or in inadequate quantities.

Although some farmers consider that irrigation can be costly and a complicated process to master, especially when there’s a broad extension of crop surface to tend to, the truth is that there are alternatives such as poly-irrigation that can be applied to facilitate the work.

In this post you will find information about:

  • What is poly-irrigation?
  • What are the advantages of poly-irrigation?
  • What about the disadvantages?
  • Some poly-irrigation methods used today
  • How does the use of plastic pipes in poly-irrigation help?
  • Some benefits of using poly tubes in poly-irrigation
  • Farmers’ opinions

We will try to answer these and other inquiries in this article. However, if you have any further questions about prices, capacity, where to buy poly tubes for irrigation or anything related to, please don’t hesitate to contact our experts.

What is poly-irrigation?

Until a few decades ago the only way to keep the crops hydrated was through buckets of water that were transported by weight from the water sources to the field and later on by a network of canal systems, however, this has been transformed over time as agricultural surfaces grow. Nowadays more farmers are deciding to adopt the poly-irrigation method to make the task more cost effective and beneficial to the crop.

Poly-irrigation is irrigation through furrows or ditches that are dug in the soil surface and are usually located between the rows of crops in a field.

Through these furrows, farmers have the facility to circulate the water, either by gravity or by the system’s pressure, which will refill the soil reservoir. The good thing is that the flow that reaches each of the furrows can be controlled individually to have better control of the water destined for the crop.

What are the advantages of poly-irrigation?

One of the most outstanding advantages for farmers is that poly-irrigation can be a low-cost, low-tech alternative, making it particularly suitable for row crops on large fields, such as sugar cane, cotton, or corn. It can also be used successfully in horticultural crops such as tomatoes and citrus fruits.

Low implementation costs make poly-irrigation an excellent alternative for developing countries and in regions of the world where mechanized sprinkler irrigation is not available or because it’s not feasible due to soil conditions or extension of farmland to irrigate.

Another advantage is that the poly-irrigation system allows, if necessary, manual control of irrigation to distribute water to the parts of the land where it is most needed.

Although some point out that this method is not the most popular to obtain water for crops, the truth is that being economical and low-tech, it is still one of the most used by millions of farmers around the world.

According to data provided by the U.S. Geological Survey, in the United States in 2000, an estimated more than 29 million acres were irrigated by flood irrigation, compared to approximately 28 million acres irrigated by sprinkler irrigation.

Polyirrigation. Photo by Stefano Marinelli on Unsplash

What about the disadvantages?

Like any method that has its pros and cons, poly-irrigation is no exception. Some of the disadvantages include the time it takes for water to get from one end of the field to the other, for example, in row crops. This implies that water possibly infiltrates longer at the top end of the field than at the bottom, thus causing an imbalance in irrigation uniformity.

When this happens, one of the recommendations is to try to improve irrigation performance by increasing the speed at which water moves across the field. One of the ways to achieve this is to increase water flow rates so that it travels faster, thus making irrigation more uniform and reducing the amount of water needed to complete the job.

Another disadvantage of poly-irrigation may be the need for a lot of manpower to carry out the work, since moving the furrow irrigation equipment from one furrow to another is a sufficiently strenuous task for a single farmer to do it. Perhaps this generates an additional expense because more staff will need to be hired, however, this is something that each farmer must evaluate to determine if this method will be considered as an expense or an investment in the short and long term.

Some methods of poly-irrigation used today

  • Leveling the fields: This is a technique that uses gravity to transport water throughout the field and make it flow uniformly.

Farmers use equipment designed to level land, for example, when flattening the ground to build a tennis court. Depending on the nature of the equipment used, some have the particularity of being guided by laser beams, allowing the surface to be levelled so that it’s ready for planting work to begin.

  • Surge flooding: Farmers who use this technique do so to release specific amounts of water at predefined times to avoid excessive release of water that can lead to unwanted runoff, which in turn can compromise the integrity of the land and the crop in general.
  • Trapping and reusing runoff: When flood irrigation is carried out, usually, a large amount of water is lost, as it ends up running off the back and edges of the fields. Faced with this situation, farmers have the alternative of trapping the runoff in ponds to pump it back to the front of the field, so that it can be reused for the next irrigation cycle.

What happens when there’s a drought?

It is no secret that changes in the climate are increasingly evident, especially in some regions of the world where rainfall is becoming scarce, making it difficult for crops to thrive naturally.

Without enough rainwater, crops are struggling, and find it difficult to grow and develop optimally. As a result, farmers have had to rethink the way they execute their agricultural practices to design and implement new viable strategies to enhance their crops and offer quality products, even in times of drought.

Agricultural programs have been promoted to improve the conservation and use of water resources for the benefit of crops under drought conditions, but many depend on certain legal regulations that delay their progress. For this reason, farmers prefer to use other additional tools to solve their farm problems faster, such as poly-irrigation and other irrigation systems to maintain their profitability.

Another good alternative is to use plastic mulch, which allows saving water and obtaining early harvests with a better appearance. Their effects are favorable because they help preserve moisture and nutrients in the soil, maintain its structure against erosion and make the most of fertilizers so that crops yield more, are protected and a greater quantity of healthy products is obtained.

Farmers know that these types of plastics contribute to maintaining the structure of the land and reduce the levels of irrigation water loss when the evaporation process is activated.

Some have combined the use of plastic mulch with more technical irrigation systems such as drip irrigation to save water.

For more information, we recommend reading our articles:

How does the use of plastic pipes or poly tubes help in poly-irrigation?

When it comes to poly-irrigation, agricultural producers often use pipes made of plastic polymers that are placed in the furrows dug in the ground to allow a better distribution of water over the entire length of the land to be irrigated.

These plastic pipes that allow a better water distribution and achieve optimum performance in the field are the poly tubes. Thanks to their variety of sizes and thicknesses, it’s possible to choose the ones that best suit your specific soil and crop needs.

In addition, installation is simple, and the qualities of these tubes provide the flexibility needed to adjust the water flow and the direction it will take based on the needs of the crop.

Some benefits of using poly tubes in poly-irrigation:

  • Allows saving 25% more water and energy by using the liquid efficiently.
  • It implies low initial, operational, and maintenance costs.
  • It’s easy to install, move and adapt to the requirements of the land.
  • Minimizes manual labor.
  • It can be used to boost diverse crops such as corn, sugar cane, soybeans, rice, and cotton, among others.
  • Increases the speed of irrigation work.
  • There’s a better distribution of water throughout the land.
  • There’s less soil erosion and fewer agricultural chemicals are eliminated.

One of the positive aspects of using this type of flexible plastic pipe is that it adapts better and easily to almost any land, doesn’t require permanent or elaborate structures, and has reduced water and energy consumption in fields around the world.


Poly tube for irrigation

 Poly tube for irrigation

Farmers’ opinions

Currently, some farmers have dedicated themselves to developing some improvements in the poly-irrigation technique to use less water in their crops.

One such improvement is compensation valve irrigation, where the valve is placed between two polypropylene sections. This is a simple modification to the furrow irrigation mostly used in cotton, sugar cane, and corn crops, which can have a significant impact on the increasingly acute water management problem.

An example of this can be seen in the work being promoted by agricultural producers in the Lower Rio Grande Valley in Texas, USA, where the organization Agricultural Water Efficiency (AWE) has shown that with the use of this valve in surge irrigation “up to 52% less water can be used than furrow irrigation, especially in sugar cane fields and 28% less in cornfields. Two separate cotton studies showed savings of 22% and 31%.”

Texas farmer Sam Sparks says more land can be irrigated with less water and less labor, which saves money, makes farming more efficient, and increases crop productivity.

On the other hand, Tom McLemore, Project Manager of the Harlingen Irrigation District, said that when irrigation is done traditionally through furrows, usually six inches of water are used in each irrigation, so with this new system, it’s expected to reduce that amount to three or four inches.

“In row crops, we have seen savings of 20% to 30% of applied water, which is very significant because, in the Lower Rio Grande Valley, rainfall alone cannot meet all the needs of agriculture, additional water must come from one or both of these finite sources.” For more information on this initiative, we recommend accessing this link.

If you need more information or wish to know more about the option of using poly tubes in your crops, contact our team and we will be glad to help you.

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