Effect of dripline flushing on subsurface drip irrigation systems

The velocity of dripline flushing in subsurface drip irrigation (SDI) systems affects system design, cost, management, performance, and longevity. A 30‐day field study was conducted at Kansas State University to analyze the effect of four targeted flushing velocities (0.23, 0.30, 0.46, and 0.61 m/s) for a fixed 15 min duration of flushing and three flushing frequencies (no flushing or flushing every 15 or 30 days) on SDI emitter discharge and sediments within the dripline and removed in the flushing water. At the end of the field experiment (371 h), the amount of solids carried away by the flushing water and retained in every lateral were determined as well as laboratory determination of emitter discharge for every single emitter within each dripline. Greater dripline flushing velocities, which also resulted in greater flushing volumes, tended to result in greater amounts of solids in the flushing water, but the differences were not always statistically significant. Neither the frequency of flushing nor the interaction of flushing frequency and velocity significantly affected the amount of solids in the flushing water. There was a greater concentration of solids in the beginning one‐third of the 90 m laterals, particularly for treatments with no flushing or with slower dripline flushing velocities. As flushing velocity and concurrently flushing volume increased, there was a tendency for greater solids removal and/or more equal distribution within the dripline. At the end of the field study, the average emitter discharge as measured in the laboratory for a total of 3970 emitters was 0.64 L/h. which was significantly less (approximately 2.5%) than the discharge for new and unused emitters. Only six emitters were nearly or fully clogged, with discharges between 0% and 5% of new and unused emitters. Flushing velocity and flushing frequency did not have consistent significant effects on emitter discharge, and those numerical differences that did exist were small (<3%). Emitter discharge was approximately 3% less for the distal ends of the driplines (last 20% of the dripline). Although not a specific factor in the study, the results of solids removals during flushing and solids retention within the different dripline sections suggest that duration of flushing may be a more cost‐effective management option than increasing the dripline flushing velocity through SDI system design. Finally, although microirrigation system components have been improved over the years, the need for flushing to remove solids and reduce clogging potential has not been eliminated ​
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