Subsurface drip irrigation for corn production: a review of 10 years of research in Kansas
Gary A. Clark Research Agricultural Engineer Subsurface drip irrigation (SDI) systems deliver water to the root zone of crops using polyethylene drip tubing that is permanently buried below the soil surface. In properly designed and operated systems, little or no wetting of the soil surface occurs, nor is there visual evidence of the system performance. Because SDI systems apply water differently than center pivot sprinklers and surface flood systems, an SDI operator may need to change current irrigation management protocol or learn new procedures to ensure proper SDI performance. Pressure gauge and water meter readings become extremely important indicators of the health of an SDI system. Other management issues also may require some modification to use SDI system strengths, including tillage, fertilizer, and herbicide programs. SDI systems also may change the answer to the fundamental irrigation-scheduling question of how much and how frequently irrigation water should be applied. This publication focuses on using SDI with lower-value field crops, such as corn, on the deeper silt loam soils of Kansas. Although many of the considerations apply to SDI systems for other crops and regions, it is always wise to consider how these guidelines apply to your own specific field and crop characteristics.