Surge Irrigation

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What is Surge Irrigation?

Surge irrigation is the intermittent application of water used to improve distribution uniformity along a furrow. It works on the principle that dry soil infiltrates water faster than wet soil. When soil is wet is seals because the soil particles at the surface consolidate.

When water is re-introduced in a furrow that has been wet, the wetting front moves quickly past the wetting zone to dry soil. At the wetting interface, dry soil slows the advance. This phenomena allows for a faster advance through the field with less deep percolation and better application uniformity.

The end result, therefore, is a more even distribution of water in the rooting zone from the polytubing to the tail ditch, and reduced nutrient loss from deep percolation near the polytubing

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See the source image


Advance time: Time that is required for wetting front to “advance” from the crown to the end of the furrow.

Continuous Flow: Irrigation flow in a furrow that does not stop from start to finish, before the required application depth is applied

Recession time: Time for the wave front to recede from the furrow. Essentially this is when the majority of the tail water has stopped draining from the field.

Opportunity time: Time for water to infiltrate into the soil. The more opportunity time water has contact with the soil, the more volume is infiltrated.

Soak Time: Time after advance has completed where the remainder of the set time is used to meet the required application depth.

Application depth: The depth of irrigation applied during a surge irrigation. This depth should be between 2.5 and 3.0 ac-in.

Number of cycles: The number of advance cycles (water on/water off) used to complete a surge advance program. Generally surge advance times increase during the surge program, although some surge programs have a longer first advance than the second before increasing.

On-time: The time water is applied to one side

Off-time: The time water is not applied to one side

Cycle-time: The time required to complete an on/off cycle (sum of on-time and offtime)

Irrigation set time: The total irrigation time, this includes advance and soak times. The set time for row crops should always be less than 40 hours. If using a CHS plan, you must add the time for each set together to calculate the irrigation set time. For example if a surge is being used on two 24 hour set, the total time is 48 hours and the sets should be divided into three sets.

Summary (Overview)

Surge Irrigation is the intermittent application of water in furrow irrigation for the purpose of improving down furrow efficiency and reducing deep percolation. The use of a programmed automated valve is used with lay flat pipe that has been planned with set sizes Surge irrigation must be adapted and adjusted to field and soil type conditions. Plan surge irrigation sets for a total irrigation time of 24 hours and use CHS to determine lay flat pipe hole punch plans.

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