Adequate irrigation is essential for the healthy development of the trees and fruit in any orchard.
But care is needed because relatively small changes in irrigation patterns can lead to significant variations in the amount and quality of fruit produced.
A number of variable factors can make it difficult to gauge just how much irrigation trees are likely to need, particularly at the beginning of the annual growing season each spring.
The Danger of Excessive Irrigation
Trees require less water than many people assume during this time of year, and the appearance of dryness on the top of the surrounding soil, or in surface plants and grass, is not necessarily an accurate indication of moisture levels at tree root depth.
So it is easy to over-water at this time, which can retard the growth of the trees developing feeder roots or even lead to them rotting. It may also leach vital nutrients from the soil.
The Three Key Metrics You Need to Know
There are three measurements of which you need to be aware to ensure that your trees get enough, but not too much, water —
- the amount of water your system is delivering
- the amount of that moisture which is retained by the soil
- the rate at which the trees are using water
The water delivered by your system should be relatively simple to control. But the amount of moisture retained in the ground may vary considerably; sandy and rocky soils absorbing much less than heavier loams and clays.
The rate of water usage by trees depends mainly on their size and can be roughly calculated according to height, width and amount of leaf cover.
But water uptake also varies according to regional and climatic differences in hours of daylight and sunshine, temperature, humidity and wind.
Trees also use water more slowly in spring than in the later growing months. As a rule of thumb, an amount of water which lasts a tree for 14 days in April will last for six days in May and just three in July.
Accurate Moisture Measurement
There are a variety of moisture sensors available on the market today. Accurate moisture measurement is critical to determining the best irrigation schedule for your orchard crops. By knowing what the moisture level in the soil actually is, you can adjust your irrigation schedule to have the right amount of water available to the tree when it is needed the most.
At W P Law Inc we’ve been helping South Carolina farmers and orchard owners to understand and resolve irrigation issues on properties of all types and sizes since 1970.
Stop by one of our locations any time, click here to drop us an e-mail or call 800-476-4515 toll free and we’ll be glad to talk with you.