Irrigation Vital During Critical Periods of Vegetable Season

Clint Thompson Alabama, Irrigation

Drip irrigation in a pepper field.

By Clint Thompson

Hot and dry conditions mean irrigation is a must for Alabama’s vegetable and specialty crops. Joe Kemble, Alabama Extension vegetable specialist, implores producers to stay vigilant in ensuring their crops have sufficient moisture.

“This is a critical period to make sure that we have ample water out there, to make sure we’re either getting good stands or we’re getting good fruit growth and development. Water is key,” Kemble said. “Fortunately, we’re not as dependent on rainfall as a lot of row croppers are, but it doesn’t mean you have to let your vigilance down.”

Farmers want to capitalize with multiple harvests, especially considering how expensive input costs are.

“There are certain critical periods for various crops that you grow. Like with sweet corn, it’s usually during tasseling or emergence of the stand. They become critical points of irrigation. If the crop ends up suffering, you don’t make the quality and you don’t make the weight of what you want to make. That’s even more so on multiple harvest crops like tomatoes,” Kemble said. “Tomatoes are the most expensive crop for us to grow, I think, on average. Most growers may have $7,000 or $8,000 invested in the crop pre-harvest. Obviously, you want to make those costs back. Water and irrigation and fertigation, those are just not the areas you can cut back on. If you do not meet the crop’s demand when the crop needs it, your crop suffers.”