Fertigation: the Hot New Market Category in Agriculture Today

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Irrigation fertigation systems handle fertilizing and chemical application more precisely, efficiently, and profitably than traditional methods

For farmers and orchard growers, “If you're going to irrigate, fertigate,” is the wisdom of the day, and for good reason. Fertigation, or applying fertilizer and chemicals through irrigation, accomplishes these agricultural tasks better, faster, and cheaper than traditional methods. Its use and related agricultural management techniques such as chemigation have grown 700% in the past five years and are gaining popularity worldwide.

The concept of using existing irrigation systems to simultaneously apply both water and fertilizer – or any insecticide, herbicide, fungicide – has come a long way from its origins in the small agricultural community of Yuma, Colorado, where in the late 60's and early 70's, Gary Newton started experimenting with fertigation systems at the urging of a friend. Little did he know that he was on to something that one day would lead to a new market category and the coining of a word that is now commonly used in agriculture.

“I originally came up with the term over 30 years ago,” says Gary Newton, founder of Agri-Inject, Inc. “At the time, farmers couldn't get this kind of agricultural equipment because it didn't exist. I started Agri-Inject in 1982 to meet what turned out to be a tremendous demand for the equipment. Once word got out it spread like wildfire, and now this technique is now used worldwide.”

Because the agricultural technique injects targeted fertilizer and chemicals through existing sprinkler systems via calibrated pumps for precise timing and application control, it's the highest performance, most economical application method today.

Through this fertilizer application method, major nutrients such as nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus; minor nutrients such as sulfur, boron, and magnesium; and micronutrients such as manganese, zinc, and copper can be economically applied to a variety of crops and orchards. Commercial systems can also be engineered for viscous or slurried material - such as gypsum, potash, or other organic soil treatment.

Though precisely controlled and timed injection rates, growers can “spoon feed” crops with the right dose at the right time, while avoiding overlapping application and missed rows, excessive run-off, and the high cost of professional mechanical applicators.

“With just the right amount of water, the agricultural technique can thoroughly incorporate fertilizer to the desired root depth,” adds Newton. “It reduces compaction and crop damage. It replaces costly, imprecise mechanical fertilizer and chemical spreading methods - which are more unattractive given today's fuel prices.”

Fertigation and chemigation also minimize operator, public, and environmental exposure to fertilizers and chemicals, since these are typically mixed once per field and applied in highly diluted form.

Due to the agricultural technique's growth over the years, many farmers have existing equipment, but are now looking to upgrade to better, more precise metering systems.

“Growers can't afford poor engineering anymore,” explains Newton. “They need state-of-the-art diaphragm pumps with precision micrometer adjustment. They just won't get that with imprecise piston pumps or crude slipstick adjustments.”

A new irrigation fertigation system from Agri-Inject, for instance, can provide a precise closed diaphragm pump with +-1% accuracy compared with highly inaccurate older systems. The improved accuracy prevents over or under application of fertilizer and provides significant cost savings per acre.

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