Subsurface drip irrigation spreading in central state

When it comes to water, the quality and quantity available become important issues.

During the past several years, water in Kansas is becoming a greater concern as drought has stricken the high plains area. In agriculture, water is an important part of a producer’s livelihood, especially when irrigation plays a vital role in crop production.

Last week, a sizeable group of farmers gathered at the Sedgwick County Extension Center to educate themselves about subsurface drip irrigation. Subsurface drip irrigation (SDI) has been used in western Kansas for 14 years now, and has made its way to south-central Kansas during the past few years.

Topics on design, installation, water filtration, economics, and practical uses were on the agenda.

The biggest challenge, as in most projects, is preparation work before installing such a system. It is an expensive investment, and producers will need to know that this is a system that will fit their needs. SDI has an advantage on irregular shaped fields, conserves water, and some fertigation (fertilizing crops using irrigation) can occur through the drip tape.

Depending on soil types, crops grown, and management will calculate whether or not the expense will pay out.

Economics shows that on normal commodities, the system must last a minimum of fifteen years. I’ve seen results in western Kansas that pay out quick at this point than in central Kansas on irrigated corn.

But I have seen tremendous results on increased production using SDI on cotton.

Besides lower pumping costs, using less water, and potential increases in crop yields, producers experience other values, too. They no longer have to mess with gated pipe. Therefore, it is a savings on labor. They don’t have to worry about strong winds blowing over irrigation pivots either.

According to Ken Phillips of Yardney Water Management Systems: “SDI does not replace good farming practices, and it does not automatically make farming more productive nor successful. It provides good farmers with the ability to manage their crop resources better.”

Bradley Goering can be reached by telephone at 620-327-4941, or by e-mail at

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