Priority 3: Conserving water resources
Placement of additional drip lines to enhance soil fumigation and irrigation efficiency and minimize environmental impacts
- Oleg Daugovish, University of California, Ventura County Cooperative Extension
- Dan Legard, California Strawberry Commission
The current multi-year drought in California and other western states has necessitated an urgent need for water conservation by the region's strawberry farmers. Those same growers are faced with pressure to adopt new pesticide strategies as international regulations phase out the use of methyl bromide, the standard practice for controlling soil-borne pathogens and nematodes. Some of the new alternative fumigants being implemented can be applied via the same drip lines used for irrigation. Studies in Southern California and Florida reveal that optimizing the number and placement of drip lines can significantly improve fumigation efficacy, establish plants without sprinkler irrigation (which can spread disease), and eliminate runoff and the associated environmental pollution. Expanding on this concept, the research group looked at fumigation efficacy and strawberry establishment in relation to the number of drip lines placed in three locations in the largest strawberry production regions in California. Research findings and information was then disseminated to growers.
Project Outputs and Impacts
Research from this project showed that doubling the number of drip lines instead of using traditional overhead sprinklers during strawberry plant establishment saves 20 to 67 percent of water needed and minimizes runoff. It was also discovered that the standard drip tape practice leads to inadequate distribution of generally effective fumigants and water, which allows for the survival of damaging soil-borne pathogens in some parts of the beds; this can lead to infection and eventual widespread plant collapse. A field-ready system designed to easily integrate with current production was created along with an accompanying brochure, Best Management Practice for Water Quality, with more than 200 copies distributed. Collaboration with the California Strawberry Commission (CSC) and the Farm Bureau resulted in field days that showcased the project and awarded attendees water education credit hours. Daugovish discussed the progress of the project and received grower feedback from 28 attendees at a focus meeting hosted by the CSC. Ninety-six attendees learned about the project at the 2013 Fumigants and Alternatives meeting in Ventura, Calif. All of these outreach activities were supported by the CSC and included translation into Spanish. A video was produced to display key points of the project. Overall, 600 farmers (including industry leaders) and half a million consumers were reached by this project.