A Low-Cost Drip Irrigation System Saves Time and Money

When rain is scarce, a low-cost drip irrigation system will save time and use about half as much water as conventional sprinkler irrigation.

| August/September 2002

Learn how a low-cost drip irrigation system will save you money and time in the garden.

The best fertilizer may be the footsteps of the farmer, as the Chinese proverb says. But all of the fertilizer and shoe leather in the world won't raise so much as a hill of beans without water.

Just ask anyone who farms in the desert, in places like Israel, southern California and southeastern Pennsylvania, where my family and I raise about four acres of certified organic vegetables, cut flowers, herbs and blueberries.

Normally we receive about 40 inches of rain annually (sometimes followed by brilliant rainbows.) The trouble is we haven't received anything close to normal rainfall in more than a year. Most areas in Pennsylvania now face the worst drought in recorded history. And this comes right on the heels of worst drought in 100 years, which occurred only three years ago. Whether we blame it on global warming, the greenhouse effect, El Nino or La Nina, the harsh reality is drought emergencies have been declared in Pennsylvania in five of the last seven years.

State and federal agriculture officials are urging cash grain farmers to purchase crop insurance. As organic market gardeners, our farm is not eligible for the program. Instead we've invested our hard-earned cash into the best crop assurance we know: drip irrigation equipment.

For an investment of a few hundred dollars, our low-cost drip irrigation system allows us to gross $15,300 per acre from our high-value organic vegetables and flowers, even in the driest years. That's as much as many farmers get in a good year from 200 acres of corn, 261 acres of soybeans or 424 acres of wheat. This simple, low-cost irrigation equipment also works well in home gardens.

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