Technology

11.22.11Ben Green

Fertigation Part 1- Old Concept Meets New Technology

Fertigation Diagram

Fertigation in its simplistic form is the addition of water-soluble micro and macro nutrients to irrigation water.  The roots of this application started in the agriculture industry through flood and furrow applications of which are still practiced to this day.

The agriculture industry began to evolve fertigation in the late 20th century into practical irrigation applications that utilize mechanical irrigation delivery systems.  With the backbone of an irrigation system in place, the means to inject fertilizer and mitigate its rate is what has changed significantly from inception.

Today, modern agricultural fertigation utilizes GIS(Geographic Information Systems)  to track the application of fertilizers through an entirely automated system.  The application rates within a single field can be programmed to meet the needs of specific soil types paired with the current season’s crops.

As all great irrigation technologies have their roots in agriculture, it did not take long to integrate fertigation into ornamental horticulture.  It was heavily promoted in golf coarse irrigation as a means to avoid stripping(uneven application of fertilizer causing inconsistent growth and coloration) as well as a means to reduce waste(material, manpower, equipment)

After researching the technology, it was clear that the designs were becoming more practical and cost effective.  What once was a complex system designed for technical minds has evolved into a simple system that can be managed without the consulting a mechanical engineer.

I did not begin to understand just how far the technology has evolved until I had the privilege of working on City Center in Las Vegas, Nevada.  This multi-billion dollar development had installed a fertilized irrigation line that ran through the entire 52 acre resort.  This advanced fertigation design was monitored by a central control system that could be adjusted via remote from anywhere on the property.  Sensors were placed throughout the system to evaluate the system’s ability to delivery consistent ratios across dozens of separate installations.

After talking to Darryl Green, an industry leader in fertigation systems and the founder of Landscape Injection Systems, it was clear that I had missed the mark on just what a fertigation system was capable of injecting into irrigation water.  It turns out that it should not be called fertigation because there are a lot more applications than just fertilizer.  Naturally I assumed chemical liquid or water soluble fertilizers were the intent of fertigation systems.  What really threw me for a loop were the other additives such as bio-stimulants, soil conditioners, surfactants and pest control.  At this point, it appears that you are eliminating much more than granular fertilizer applications.  With a properly managed irrigation injection system, you are eliminating the majority of manual applications related to plant health.

The next shocker that really sparked my interest was that injector systems could be 100% organic given the many liquid and soluble organic substitutes that were on the market.  I have a close friend that works for one of the worlds largest growers of carrots, Grimmway Farms.  He told me that they have fully automated organic fertilizer, herbicide, pesticide and other organic nutrients to their organic line.  Now they are the worlds largest grower of certified organic carrots, all with the use of injected irrigation systems.

This discussion will continue but understanding the backbone and full spectrum of this technology is just the start.  Please stay tuned for more in depth information.

Ben Green

 

Posts you may also like

Ben Green

Ben Green is our walking encyclopedia for irrigation systems, technology and materials. From basic to complex, Ben has installed irrigation systems of all types for a variety of properties. For almost 10 years now, Ben has developed from a ValleyCrest intern to become our go-to project manager for large complex landscape installations. Ben’s interest lies in the science and technology behind the tools and systems that enable best water management practices.

POST A COMMENT

*

COMMENTS (21)

  1. Wednesday, 6:09 Richard Restuccia

    Ben, great post. I first leaned about fertigation in Las Vegas too. The hotels up and down the strip all have them. I hardly ever see them in California. Why do you think California is so slow to adapt this technology??

  2. Thursday, 8:34 Blaine

    I believe the disconnect lies in the fact that few understand how to pair the current injector technology with soil science and product application. There are a lot of different injectors and a wide variety of synthetic and organic fertilizers. However, if you can’t interpret a soil report and match soil needs with product application,you just ‘hoping’. The most important aspect of fertigation is what goes in the tank.

  3. Monday, 1:29 Ben Green

    Hello Richard. I had to re-write this response a few times because I don’t really know.

    I would assume that it is because there are so many new resorts popping up in Las Vegas VS. the rest of the states. Since this is a relatively new technology that has taken so much time to get recognition, I would expect to see it exclusively on newer properties.

    The other factor I would think about is that every one of the properties that it is on, has a director of horticulture with a staff of technicians. They have in-house staff that can manage the system so it makes sense. There may be a facilities manager at a property but rarely someone devoted just to landscape.

    The other item that I would consider is that plant material in Las Vegas struggles, especially since designers are pushing the edges of the envelope with plant selection with every new property. This requires a far more advanced maintenance program. Truthfully, the landscape in Las Vegas gives resorts some marquis curb appeal that you don’t really see in such frequency elsewhere.

    The only thing that I know as a fact regarding fertigation in Las Vegas is the reduction of liability for the resorts. Granular and other topical applications of chemicals is a law suit waiting to happen. Some gardener hand broadcasting granular fertilizer is a recipe for a crawling infant or small child to pick it up and ingest it. I was told this by one of the directors of Horticulture for the MGM family of resorts.

    I have not directly answered your question mainly because I don’t believe that California is the only culprit here. I think the majority of the country is behind on this technology and truthfully they cannot justify the retrofit expense to old properties. In Las Vegas, they have the cash to make the investment up front because they see the value of the technology. ValleyCrest has done retrofits on old properties as well because they too see it is well worth the investment.

    So to answer your question, California is the majority of states not adopting this technology. As the designs evolve and there is less worry about malfunction and the shelf life of the system is extended, you will see it start to take off.

  4. Monday, 1:33 Ben Green

    Hello Blaine,

    I couldn’t agree with you more. The initial set-up requires an investment both financially and in research. If you set the system up correctly in the beginning, you will have something that will knock your socks off. If you just throw it together, there really is no benefit. Ironically though, manufacturers these days can provide you with the resources to answer those initial start-up questions. The advantage to new technology is the education falls on the inventors. Let’s just hope they understand the need.

  5. Monday, 1:48 Blaine

    Hi Ben,

    Your right about the education aspect. Very few people (property owners or managers) understand the need for the technology and even less about employing it. Starting January 1st the California Water Quality Control Board’s start cracking down on runoff contaminates. If commonly used granular fertilizers show up in any of the site tests, people will wake up real fast when a fine hits their desk. In the mean time, good avocacy is needed.

  6. Monday, 1:54 Ben Green

    Blaine,

    Have you got a link to a webpage that can go into further detail about this crack-down? I would like to understand this better, maybe send out the word via another blog. Very exciting stuff to hear given that there has been a need for better runoff mitigation throughout the state.

    I don’t know if you heard but there was a group of kayakers that navigated the LA river from the mountains all the way to the sea and submitted the footage to the state. Supposedly because they could prove it was a navicable waterway, it falls under different regulations. I am really excited to see what legislation will be passed because of this. Besides that, how amazing would it be to have the LA river being regulated no different than the Sacramento Delta?

  7. Monday, 2:25 Blaine

    Ben,
    I have picked up most of the information from my father who sits on one of the 9 State Boards. The 2012 focus will be aimed at Ag, Golf, Dairy, and Horticulture. However, if a polluant is in a water way, the property owner will be responsible for it. There’s a lot of legislation to be done, but the writting is on the wall. Today’s granular fertilizers (especially synthetic), as we know them, won’t be around many more years.

  8. Tuesday, 8:46 Ben Green

    Blaine,

    I am very excited to hear that synthetic granular fertilizers will be a thing of the past at least in California. Unfortunately the advancements of our industry neglect to consider the environmental impacts. When you take a look at where synthetic fertilizers came from, it honestly was a by-product of excess raw materials from war. It makes more sense once you get the whole story, which is why I am really intrigued to hear more about what you have told me. If you have any way of getting me connected with your father, or someone else, I would really appreciate hearing more about the details of this movement.

  9. Tuesday, 10:06 Blaine

    What is your email Ben?

  10. Tuesday, 10:07 Ben Green

    bgreen@valleycrest.com

  11. Tuesday, 11:17 Blaine

    Your email is bouncing back? send me an email from your computer, not this blog?

  12. Tuesday, 5:42 Andrew Bolt

    Ben…..great information.
    I represent LIS in N. Cal and truly beleive that fertilizer injection is the future. The road blocks with the product that I run into are the obvious, lack of knowledge about the product, not familiar with water soluble fertilizers, training of maintenance staff, value engineering from contractors etc. BUT I do see more interest in the technology, especially as staffing problems and labour costs are becoming more obvious.

    Designers have to start thinking the design process through, when designing with drip how does one fertilizer. If the customer wants to start using organic fertilizers injection is a great choice. The biggest learning curve though will be deciding which system is best. A system similar to EZ flow is perfect for residential where as LIS is better suited to commercial and publicworks projects. Understanding these products is fundamental in their choices, as is support. I have had many discussions with designers and end users about follow up and support. IF the manufacturer cannot support the product in the field then why bother specifying or purchasing the product. It will sit idle and simply gather dust. Fertilizer injection is part of the irrigation system and should be treated as so. Regular topping up of storage tank, water testing and soil testing is advised. Setting and forgetting isn’t an option and a professional maintenance staff is paramount.

    Fertilizer injection can save a lot of money in labour, mowing costs, grass clipping waste thus reducing carbon flooring. Landscapes will look so much better, you don’t get the “hay making effect” that granular tends to give. If your readers haven’t investigated fertilizer injection they should do so.

  13. Thursday, 7:56 Ben Green

    Hello Andrew,

    I agree with you on all points. The one item that I think needs to be focused on is the technical support. Manufacturers and suppliers need to take a good look at their current proram and ramp it up so the initial installation as well as trouble-shooting in the future does not get overlooked in the sales process. When I was working in Las Vegas, the supplier included a technician to conduct the installation. We partnered up with them and made sure when they came on-site, everything was ready including the correct POC, containment basins for the chemical tanks and skilled labor to assist in any modifications of the current irrigation system. It was a great success and the proof is in the product you see on the strip today.

    I believe the other large challenge still remians to be the initial cost of the technology and the return on invenstment that is not apparent upon sale. This is what I hope to accomplish going through fertigation 101. I have posted 2 more blogs on fertigation with the last one coming in a week or so. Stay tuned and please keep providing feedback.

  14. Thursday, 9:15 Blaine

    I think you guys are on the right track, but fertigation in the landscape industry is affordable and does not have to be overly elaborate. One can spend as little as $1,000 dollars and fertigate 5-10 acres. You can also spend $4,500 on the same acreage and get all the bells and whistles. The Grimmway’s, T&A’s and other large Ag producers have shown us what can be done, but combining simple practical equipment with soil science and product development is where it is at. But no one has put it all together, well very few let’s say. Putting an EZ Flo tank in the ground isn’t fertigation. Use an organic fertilizer, stabilized with a low pH, start adding water that is in the 7’s, then shut the system down a couple weeks after a rain. When you take the cap off the injector, your nose will not soon forget the odor. So again, it’s all about connecting the dots and keeping it affordable.

  15. Friday, 1:08 Ben Green

    Hello Blain,

    I agree that there are affordable options for fertigation, it is merely the ability to influence the public of it’s advantages and flexibility. I believe that the manufacturers and suppliers need to conbine their sales team with their technical support because you need that level of knowledge about the products to sell them. After it is installed, there will always be a need for some technical support. That is hard to come by but it really is necessary to get this technology off the shelves and into landscape irrigation systems across the country.

  16. […] the previous blog, I began with the basics of fertigation.  Now we are going to dive into the savings side of this technology.  The direct water savings […]

  17. […] far we’ve covered the basics of fertigation, and how fertigation can save water and money.  Now let’s talk products.  There are 2 forms of […]

  18. […] to the final part in our fergiation series.  Along this journey we’ve learned the basics of fertigation, learned how fertigation can save water and money, and explored the technology and costs behind […]

  19. Wednesday, 7:30 Michael Chaplinsky

    Ben
    Interesting story. We have been in the fertigation business for over 28 years across the US and worldwide.
    Open and read our PR – http://www.prweb.com/releases/2013/8/prweb11050642.htm

    http://www.prweb.com/releases/2014/01/prweb11466129.htm

    Let me know how I can help you.

    Michael

  20. Tuesday, 9:31 Blaine

    Ben, we blogged a year or so back. We started to get close to proprietary information but were able to share some great ideas together. We were recently awarded a Water Conservation contract through Metropolitan Water using fertigation and our patented polymer. I will be making a trip to the Las Vegas area late April to expand our customer base with a large property management company. My bet is that Valley Crest will be on many of the properties I will be visiting. Would you like to get together when I make my way out there?

    Blaine

  21. Saturday, 3:47 turffeedsystem

    this is very helpful blog!
    Fertigation Systems from Turf Feeding Systems provide improved landscape quality, water savings, reduced pesticide use and reduced turf management costs.

    fertigation

© 2017 ValleyCrest Landscape Companies