is the technique of introducing chemicals through irrigation
systems, fertigation being the most common. Fertigation is the
practice of fertilizing through irrigation. fertigation has been
used for many years in flood and furrow irrigation. Just
recently, technology has allowed these systems to be incorporated
into different types of irrigation, everything from fixed
sprinkler systems to drip systems to surge irrigation. This page
mainly deals with benefits of using fertigation systems in fixed
sprinklers on large turf areas, specifically golf courses. The
golf course maintenance industry has taken a keen interest in the
benefits of fertigation.
Installation of the Systems
fertigation systems into current sprinkler irrigation systems for
golf courses or playing fields is easy and fairly inexpensive.
The technique is to tie liquid fertilizer tanks into the main
irrigation lines to evenly distribute fertilizer into the system.
Injection rates are monitored by an injector pump. The injector
pump is tied into the irrigation control panel and monitors the
rate of flow of irrigation water. This way the injector pump can
be calibrated to several rates depending on the specific
fertilizer being applied. There are also control valves, which
allow multiple tanks to be on the same system. The fertilizers
can then be applied separately or combined for a specific blend.
On golf courses there are
usually three or four tanks of fertilizers to suit the
fertilizing needs of the greenskeeper. The two large tanks
contain blends of NPK fertilizers, depending on your needs. The
other tank or tanks (usually much smaller) contain liquid iron or
a minor element fertilizer high in iron, these are used for quick
green up of turf areas. The fertilizers can be applied separately
or combined. The injector pump and rate of flow valves are
installed in communication with the irrigation control panel to
ensure that the desired application rate is maintained and evenly
dispersed. Occasionally another tank is tied in containing some
sort of pesticide, but due to environmental policies a lot of
greens keepers prefer to use the conventional spray methods to
Benefits of Fertigation
applying fertilizers through a fertigation system, there
are several benefits. Applications can be targeted to
specific areas, less equipment is used and fertilizer is
applied into the soil, where it will be most effective.
This means fertilizer can be applied at a lower rate and
be more efficient and inexpensive to suit the exact needs
of the plant..
- In the situation of golf courses and large turf
areas, the irrigation layout is divided into
sections or stations. Each station can cover
either a specific green, tee or section of
fairway. With this in mind the chemicals can be
applied to specific areas. In a golf course
scenario if your greens or a any other specific
area needs a boost but everything else does not,
you can run the irrigation with added fertilizer
on just those specific stations. You can
supplement the areas without worrying about
overfertilizing into other areas.
- The worse thing to see on the greens of your
course is tire tracks that can effect putting.
When fertilizing through your irrigation, there
is really little need to go out on the course for
fertillizer applications. With fertigation,
compaction due to equipment travel is eliminated.
Also, since heavy spreader equipment isn't needed
out on the course, equipment costs are lowered
drastically. The one time cost of a fertigation
system out weighs the multiple costs of spreading
equipment and labor costs heavily. Not having to
be out on the course also means that you can
apply chemicals in conditions that would make
conventional application damaging or impossible.
Suppose it's the rainy season in your area and
your grass is in desperate need of nitrogen. The
light application of nitrogen can be applied
without having to go out onto the soft ground,
without the possibility of tire tracks or getting
equipment stuck in the mud.
- With direct penetration of the fertilizer, a
lower rate of application is more effective.
Through a combination of soil samples and tissue
samples, the grasses can actually be "spoon
fed" the nutrients they need without excess
wastes. Most greens keepers who use fertigation
prefer to do multiple applications at a lower
rate. This suits the needs of the plant at the
time, which produces a better yield in turf
density, quality and heartiness. There is also
the factor of eliminated overcast. Sprinklers are
usually adjusted to only water in the turf areas
and not in surrounding fields, woods, lakes or
roads. This eliminates overcast of essential
nutrients that may come with use of mechanical
spreading equipment or operator error. Taking
this into consideration and the fact that only
the needed amounts of fertilizers are applied,
the amount of fertilizer used is reduced. Since
less fertilizer is applied your cost application
- Computer regulation of the injection of
fertilizer to match the flow of irrigation water
is so precise that application rates are
substantially lowered. When fertilizing through
fertigation with a well planned and monitored
schedule, there is less chance of leachable
nutrients not being absorbed by the plant and
overcast into nontarget areas is eliminated.
Usually, the application can be applied with
irrigation schedules so that the liquid
fertilizer will only penetrate the first two to
three inches of the soil. If timed right, deep
percolation at application time is avoided
meaning less likelihood of leaching.
Personally, I have worked with fertigation systems on golf
courses and have found that they are beneficial programs.
Fertigation does not completely eliminate spreader applications
but does save you time and money proves to be very efficient in
most applications. The use of fertigation does however, have it's
limitations. In order for it to be of benefit, you have to be in
an area where irrigation is necessary at least once a week. On
golf course greens there are also times when an application of a
special blend or supplement is needed. In this case, a tank of
this mix may not be practical. The use of fertigation has become
wide ranged in the past ten years. Covering a variety of
agricultural fields. I believe fertigation will become a standard
operating procedure in the near future not only for turf but for
all agricultural applications.
I'd like to thank the researchers at I.T.R.C. for a
great book on fertigation.