Computerized hole selection programs help improve efficiency of furrow-irrigated fields

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Now is the time to make plans for any improvements to irrigation practices for the 2014 production season. With rain delays over the past couple of weeks, irrigation is likely the last thing producers want to think about. However, plans to improve or update irrigation practices for the upcoming season should not be postponed until it is time to start irrigating crops.

Improving irrigation efficiency can help expand irrigation capacity and lower production costs by reducing the time required to irrigate fields. Improving the efficiency of irrigation can also lower the amount of water used by reducing field runoff.

There are several irrigation aids which are available to help producers increase irrigation efficiency. One of the best, and most popular, ways to improve furrow irrigation is by using a Computerized Hole Selection Program. These computer aided programs help producers design plans specifically for furrow irrigated fields. The programs use simple field measurements, and flow rates from irrigation wells, to calculate the proper size holes to use in the irrigation tubing at each irrigated furrow. These designs often result in more uniform irrigations and a reduction in water use. Computerized Hole Selection Programs can help improve irrigation efficiency on almost all fields which are currently being furrow irrigated.

Currently, there are two computer hole selection programs available to producers. One is Pipe Planner®, a web based proprietary program which is available through Delta Plastics™. The other is a USDA developed program called Phaucet. Phaucet is a free program which can be obtained through the local County Extension Office.

Both programs will generate a design output which will guide producers in the selection of the correct hole sizes to place in the irrigation tubing at each irrigated furrow. Both programs require a measure of the length of the rows, length of the irrigation tubing, diameter of the irrigation tubing and a measure of the irrigation well's output (flow rate).

The programs use these measurements to calculate pressure throughout the irrigation tubing and to "select" the proper hole sizes to insure a uniform and efficient irrigation. Although there are differences in the mechanics of data entry between the two programs, both perform equally well in designing a plan for using the correct number and size of holes for the irrigation tubing. Both programs can help producers improve the irrigation efficiency of virtually any furrow irrigated field. Field demonstrations over the past few years have shown that using a computerized hole selection design can reduce water use (ie. improve irrigation efficiency) by approximately 25 percent. This could also equate to a 25 percent reduction in pumping cost.

Agriculture agents from the Mississippi County Extension Office have worked with producers in the county to help develop irrigation designs using the Phaucet program. Over the past two seasons, furrow irrigated acres which have a computerized hole selection design have increased to over 19,000 acres. Although the designs are not difficult to generate, the data entry and field measurements take some time. Any producer who is interested in a furrow irrigation design using computer generated hole size selections should start making plans as soon as possible. Once irrigation season starts it will be much more difficult to take the time to collect the measurements required to complete a hole selection design.

Anyone interested in additional information about furrow irrigation using a computer generated hole selection design, should contact the Mississippi County Extension Office at (870) 762-2075 or by calling Ray Benson at (870) 623-4442 or Jason Osborn at (870) 636-2445. You can also reach us via email at rbenson@uaex.edu or josborn@uaex.edu or by visiting or Facebook page @ Mississippi County Row Crop Agriculture.

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