By Tracy Correa
FIVE POINTS — The tomato plants in this remote Fresno County field are no longer being flooded with surface water you can see. Instead, they are being targeted more efficiently with drip or micro irrigation underneath the soil.
This precise application of water goes directly to the plant site or roots. It’s viewed as a better way to water crops than flood irrigation because less water is flowing to non-growth areas surrounding the crops.
Officials from PG&E, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, manufacturers and farmers gathered recently to learn more about this type of irrigating. The event at Great Harvest Farms in the small town of Five Points was also sponsored by the Bureau of Reclamation.
Saving water means saving energy and that’s why PG&E is here.
“What we’re trying to do, with PG&E’s help, of course, is to demonstrate to farmers that it’s possible to have a very efficient system using less energy,” said Cal Poly’s Charles Burt.
Micro irrigation also can help produce a better crop because the water goes right where the plant needs it — the roots.
“Your yields are so much better and the quality of the yields is so much better with drip micro if you manage it properly and have a good design – and that’s why people shift,” said Burt, chairman of the Irrigation Training and Research Center at Cal Poly.
Farmer Jeremy Freitas’ family-owned Freitas Farms about 30 miles from here already is using micro irrigation. Although the cost to switch to micro isn’t cheap, he said it’s worth it in the end — especially in areas like the Valley where water is in short supply.
“In my opinion, it’s probably the one no-brainer investment in ag today … is micro irrigation or drip irrigation,” said Freitas.
Not every crop is suitable for micro irrigation. And not every farmer can afford the thousands of dollars in upfront costs to convert. That’s why PG&E offers rebates and incentives to help defray the costs.
PG&E’s Harold Harris said it makes sense to encourage technology that can save save energy. And the Ag industry is a major part of PG&E’s service sector representing about 15 percent of all its non-residential revenue and about 90,000 accounts.
Simply put, micro irrigation is just smart business.
“Overall, it saves water for one thing and in some cases reduces pressure of the system itself. So, anytime you can reduce pressure and reduce the amount of water pumped you can save energy,” said Harris, an account manager in PG&E’s Energy Solutions and Service department.
And saving water and energy is important.
“In a perfect world, I think everyone would be on micro irrigation,” said Freitas.
Saving water, saving energy, a better yield… Everyone here agrees that micro-irrigation has growth potential.
Email Tracy Correa at email@example.com.