Fine-tune root crop irrigation to optimise performance


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As the season remains unpredictable for many, root crop growers are encouraged to fine-tune irrigation programmes by utilising available technologies that optimise performance. 

Primarily grown on lighter land with limited moisture-holding capacity, root crops such as carrots, parsnips, potatoes and onions all require irrigation to achieve their yield potential. 

This not only overcomes moisture deficit in the plant, but also provides stress relief to prevent issues such as woody or misshapen roots in carrots, or secondary growth and common scab in potatoes. 

Over-irrigating, particularly later season, can also have a negative effect on marketable yield and post-harvest longevity. However, using tools such as soil moisture probes and stations is one way growers can improve their water use to ensure the crop receives what it requires at the right time.

“Soil moisture stations are a great way of removing some of the guess work when it comes to irrigation,” said James Martin, Weather & Decision Support Systems Manager for Agrovista.

“By using sensors at different depths within the crop, we measure not only the quantity of available moisture, but also how well it moves within the root zone and its uptake by the plant. 

“Because the data is available remotely in near real time, growers can react quickly and make timely decisions. This reactivity is important given the seasons have been so unpredictable lately.

“Remote data is also very helpful if crops are being grown on rented land away from the central holding, making sure that available irrigation equipment is used most efficiently across multiple sites.”

As a finite resource and with tightening regulation on abstraction, using water carefully and in a targeted manner is becoming increasingly important. 

Head of Veg at Agrovista, John Allan, believes an integrated approach to on-farm water management should be exercised as a means of best practice to safeguard yields.

He said: “All veg crops not only root veg are high value and require careful management to ensure they return on investment. Technological solutions such as moisture stations and probes are a considerable outlay, but when compared to the potential yield benefits, shouldn’t be discounted based on cost. 

“Our agronomists also encourage growers to exercise cultural practices for good water management, such as targeted cultivations and effective weed control. Soil health is also a contributing factor, as good levels of organic matter will improve a soil’s water holding capacity.” 

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