The Cal Poly Irrigation Training and Research Center (ITRC), in collaboration with academic, water district, and industry partners, proposes to evaluate new strategies for drip irrigation on strawberries to minimize runoff during transplant establishment.

The most common method used for irrigating strawberries is a mix of sprinkler irrigation and drip. Growers use sprinkler irrigation for bed preparation and salinity control, then eventually switch to drip irrigation after transplanting, but continue to use sprinkler irrigation as an insurance policy (for bonding between plant roots and soil bonding, washing off the leaves, controlling salinity, and frost). However, field observations have shown that only a small portion of the water applied by sprinklers actually infiltrates through the plastic mulch to the deeper plant roots.

The purpose of the project is to develop an analysis of the current irrigation practices of the strawberry growers on the Central Coast of California. The primary research evaluation period is during the establishment of transplants where sprinklers are typically used even though drip irrigation is available. Growers have been selected from Oxnard, Santa Maria, and Watsonville to provide a good cross section of the region’s strawberry growing areas. The specific objectives of the project are to: (1) set up research areas and control plots on a demonstration scale, (2) determine the key factors that affect the problems in early growth of transplanted strawberries, (3) determine relationships between the use of irrigation water and the control of salinity, and (4) provide a multi-year analysis to determine long-term salinity impacts on yields. This project examines the motives, methods, and need for sprinklers on strawberries. The overall goal of the project is to conserve water by minimizing or eliminating sprinkler use on strawberries. The project is designed to study the current practice and determine the conditions where growers can change these practices. By minimizing sprinkler use, water is conserved, money is saved by pumping less water, and runoff is reduced. This project targets drought management as well as target runoff as a potential source of contaminants reaching waterways.


Bioresource and Agricultural Engineering

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URL: https://digitalcommons.calpoly.edu/bae_fac/128