New Tester Fine-Tunes Irrigation Systems
By Marcia Wood
July 3, 2003
To reach every thirsty plant in a field
or orchard, water pressure has to be just right. Tomorrow's farmers might
choose to conveniently spot-check water pressure using a portable device
invented by Agricultural Research
The pressure-tester is designed for drip-irrigation systems that use
thin-walled, flexible black tubing that's either above the ground or buried.
Today's drip systems irrigate an estimated 3 million acres of farmland in the
Water pressure is especially critical in fields or orchards with uneven
terrain, according to Dennis C. Kincaid of the ARS
Northwest Irrigation and Soils
Research Laboratory, Kimberly, Idaho. Kincaid and colleague Thomas J. Trout
of the ARS San Joaquin Valley
Agricultural Sciences Center in Parlier, Calif., invented the new tester
and are seeking a patent for it.
The unit offers a practical way to determine whether an irrigation system is
working properly. The tester weighs approximately one pound, is about the size
of a pipe wrench, and is accurate to within the accepted 5 percent.
Kincaid and Trout have made prototypes of steel and of aluminum, and they
estimate that the device could be manufactured at a reasonable cost.
The tester isn't intended to replace today's permanently installed meters
and gauges, but instead is a handy option for special situations, such as for
spot-checking temporary drip systems that are pulled up after harvest. It works
somewhat like a giant clothespin that's clamped around an irrigation tube and
then released. A scale indicates pressure in the standard unit of measure,
pounds per square inch.
Details are in the July 2003 issue of the
U.S. Department of Agriculture's monthly science magazine, Agricultural
ARS is the USDA's chief scientific