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Unmatched precision and no clogging: putting pipelife’s pressure-compensated drip irrigation to the test

June 16, 2023 | 5 min read

One of the key preconditions to efficient irrigation is ensuring that all plants receive the same amount of water. While on flat terrain, this can be achieved quite easily, extra challenges lay for farmers who work uneven or sloping fields. Pressure-compensated (PC) irrigation systems ensure that water and nutrients are transmitted throughout the field evenly, no matter the topography. Two years ago, farmer Mihalis Klonizakis opted for Pipelife’s PC irrigation system at his farm in Palaiohora, Crete. Now, he is excited to share the results.

Tomatoes in the greenhouse | Pipelife

SUCCESSFUL FARMING DESPITE THE DROUGHTS

As Mihalis Klonizakis shows the lush and healthy tomato plants in one of his greenhouses, it is easy to forget that this is one of the southernmost areas in Europe. Ten years ago, Mihalis took over his parents’ six-acre tomato farm in Palaiohora, Crete. But lately, the water in Crete, just like in other regions of southern Europe, is becoming scarcer. Heatwaves and long droughts have become a frequent worry to local farmers, and irrigation here is crucial to prevent crop failures. 

“If the winter is not good, and it doesn’t rain, there is a shortage of water felt throughout the season,” Mihalis says. “And we’re limited to abstract only a few cubic feet of water per year.” 

Cretan farmer in the greenhouse | Pipelife

As Mihalis firmly believes in sustainable water use, his farm has always relied on drip irrigation. Also known as micro- or precision irrigation, the technology is considered the most economical in agriculture, allowing farmers to cut water use by around half compared to traditional irrigation methods. Delivering water straight to the root zone, drip irrigation is also among the most effective ways to water tomato plants, which thrive under a consistent water supply and are sensitive to water falling on the leaves.

Tomatoes in the greenhouse | Pipelife

Reducing Maintenance Work for Farmers 

The irrigation system previously set up at Michalis’ farm was prone to clogging, just adding to his long list of farm management tasks. Trying to unblock the pipes mechanically or flushing them used to be common and time-consuming treatments that offered only a temporary solution.

Looking for alternative precision irrigation technology, Mihalis became interested in Pipelife’s one-stop-shop approach. With the aim to save time and worries for farmers, Pipelife covers all the necessary steps, from a tailored irrigation system design to installation, training and maintenance advice.

Tailored irrigation system for Crete | Pipelife
Cretan farmer Mihalis Klonizakis and Pipelife’s R&D Project Manager | Pipelife

Konstantinos Akritanakis, Pipelife’s R&D Project Manager, has been working with Mihalis and affirms that complaints about complex system maintenance from producers who turn to Pipelife are not unusual.

“Clogging is common with simpler drip lines,” he sums up. “Some farmers believe that cylindrical drippers are less prone to it, but the truth is that clogging is caused by the turbulence inside the drip line and a subpar dripper design. It’s not the size or form of the dripper but how the water flow goes through it that causes or prevents clogging.”

TRIED AND TESTED: THE ADVANTAGES OF PRESSURE COMPENSATED DRIP IRRIGATION

Two years ago, the previous irrigation system at Mihalis’ farm was replaced by 1.6 km of Pipelife’s flat drip lines hosting 6400 flat PC drippers with a constant flow rate of 2 L/h. The high-precision system has been designed to be virtually maintenance-free and can compensate the pressure anywhere between 0.4 to 4 bars, delivering the optimal water amount to each plant irrespective of the local topography.

“Developing a design that ensures high precision with a wide range of pressures is something only a few suppliers do because it requires a lot of trials and comprehensive testing,” Konstantinos explains. “We are proud of our optimized dripper design as our goal is to provide farmers with solutions that go beyond their expectations.”

This is the third season Mihalis relies on Pipelife’s irrigation system at his farm. He notes that there has been no pressure variation or runoff, and the growth of all plants has been uniform, with yields reaching 18-20 tons of tomatoes per acre. Mihalis also admits he hasn’t considered changing his irrigation setup ever since.

“[The system] is very good — it doesn’t clog, and the accuracy is exactly where you want it to be. I just turn it on, water supply and fertigation, and I can forget about it all completely. I now focus on my production instead of the drip pipes.” 

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