Winterization Using Air Blow Out


In a freezing climate it is advisable to “winterize” the sprinkler system in order to avoid damage. Special attention should be given to removing water from the pipes, valves and sprinkler heads, before freezing occurs. This may be accomplished using three techniques; the manual drain valve method, the automatic drain valve system, or the air blow-out practice.

This guide deals with the air-blow out practice, as it is the only way to ensure water has been removed from the system. Factors you must consider before you begin:

• WEAR PROPER EYE PROTECTION! Extreme care must be taken when blowing out the system to avoid excessive pressure which can damage valves or sprinkler pipe or cause physical injury due to flying debris.

• Do not stand over any irrigation components (pipes, sprinklers, and valves) during air blow out.

• Air pressure must not exceed 50 pounds per square inch (psi). Compressor must be capable of delivering 20 to 25 Cubic Feet Per Minute of air volume.

• Do not run equipment for longer than 1 minute on air.

Local irrigation contractors usually offer this service for a reasonable fee that may also include start-up in the spring. Depending on how extensive your system is and what type of equipment you have installed, you may want to choose a professional who is fully equipped to provide this service.

Description of procedure: Compressed air is used to force water through all of the irrigation system components including the mainline pipe, sprinkler control valves, lateral pipes, and out through the sprinkler heads. To obtain proper air volume, you will need to rent or buy a compressor capable of providing 20 to 25 cubic feet per minute (CFM) of air volume.

Air pressure must not exceed 50 pounds per square inch (psi) during the blow out procedure.

A pressure-regulating valve must be used to avoid over pressurization of the system. Air volume should be high and air pressure low. This combination of high volume and low pressure will minimize the damage that can occur during the winterization process. It is very important to select the right air compressor for the job. Some small shop compressors (2 hp) may not be adequate to complete the winterization procedure properly. You may want to go with a more ‘industrial’ option for your needs, such as the gardner denver air compressor which can be bought either as a new or rebuilt model. If the appropriate air compressor is not available, please call an irrigation contractor.

Do not try to use an air compressor with high pressure (120 psi) and low volume to evacuate water from the system. It is not an acceptable practice to allow the compressor to fill the holding tank of the compressor and the closed mainline with high pressure air, hoping the surge of excess pressure will compensate for the lack of compressor size and blow the line clean upon opening the sprinkler control valve.

This is a dangerous practice that places very severe stresses on all of the components of the system.

Do not run the compressor without at least one sprinkler control valve open.

This lessens the chance that the system could over pressurize. It is a common misbelief that if the system can withstand 120 psi of water pressure, similar air pressure will not damage the system. This is not true! The viscosity of air is much lower than water, generating much higher stresses that can cause severe damage to the system.

Design: There should be a separate provision on the sprinkler system mainline for hooking up the air hose. This could be a quick connect fitting, a manual gate valve, a plugged “tee”, or simply a capped pipe in the line. This adapter should be located as close to the water source as possible.

Check with your air compressor manufacturer for the correct procedure and equipment to hook up to the sprinkler system.


Wear Proper Eye Protection! Do not stand over any irrigation components (pipe, valves, or sprinklers) during air blow out. Do not run the air compressor without a sprinkler zone control valve being open first, from start up to compressor shut down. Air pressure must not exceed 50 pounds per square inch (psi).

Blow out procedure activating sprinkler control valves from the timer:

1. Close mainline sprinkler shutoff valve.
2. Relieve the water pressure on the mainline by activating a circuit, or zone, from your

Activate the circuit that is furthest from the air connection before introducing air into the piping.

3. Attach the compressor hose to the blow out adapter.
4. Set the pressure-regulating valve on the compressor to 50 psi.
5. Turn on the compressor. Gradually increase the flow of air until the sprinkler heads pop
up. The amount of flow or volume required will be dependent upon the length of the
pipe run and the number of heads.
6. Sustained heat from the compressed air may damage pipe and other components.

Do not blow any circuit more than 1 minute at a time. Switch to another station, or zone, by advancing the timer to the next circuit.

Do not turn the timer off at any time during this operation until the compressor is first shut off.

7. In order to ensure adequate drainage of lines, repeat the cycle two or more times,
activating each zone from the timer, until nothing more than a fine mist appears from
the heads. Many sprinklers that use plastic gears in their drive mechanisms also use
water for lubrication and cooling. If a circuit is allowed to run with nothing but air for
extended periods there is a significant risk of damaging the drive mechanism of the
8. After blowing out all the zones, leave one zone on while shutting down the compressor.
Turn the compressor off at this time.
9. Unhook the compressor from the adapter to the sprinkler system mainline.
10. Turn the timer to “Off”.

From: K-Rain • Riviera Beach, FL

A New Era in Irrigation

Subsurface drip irrigation helps eliminate washout, evaporation

By Lindsay Owens

From “Growing In The Heartland” Magazine October 2015

LOOKING AT BILL Resler’s field of corn located just outside of Oaktown, one may not noticed much of anything out of the ordinary. The stalks are tall and adorned with ears of corn waiting to mature for harvest. The gentle sound of a pump running echoes in the background but you won’t find an overhead irrigation system around.

Resler, who said typically this particular field yields about 125 bushels of corn to the acre, is hoping for an even better result this year since he’s installed Netafim subsurface drip irrigation with the help of the TRICKL-EEZ Company. The drip irrigation system is made of flexible polyethylene tubing that features emitters permanently affixed to the inside of the tubing. The tubing, which from the outside looks like much like traditional trickle tape often used to irrigate specialty crops such as melons, tomatoes and peppers, is buried 12 to 18-inches deep with rows set between 40 and 60-inches apart.

“West of Highway 41 has more water than we do on this side,” said Resler, who so far, likes the results he’s seen from the underground system. “I’m trying to make a marginal farm into a good farm and get a better return on my investment in the long run. I plan to do 35 more acres next year. We just couldn’t get enough water over here before.”

Resler has two wells installed on this particular farm and said that the use of the new system has already proven beneficial to his crop.

“It looks a lot better than it normally does,” he said. “I’m still learning but I like what I see so far. We can put on ¾ an inch of water with the system we have here. It’s going to be a good investment.”  

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Grant Williams, Midwest/Northeast Netafim sales representative was on hand at Resler’s farm to explain how the subsurface irrigation system works.

“We offer several different grades of tubing for different crops,” said Williams as he held up a ring containing multiple samples of the tubing. “We are using ‘Typhoon’ here. The sensors help to adjust to the needs of the crop. Those sensors also adjust for elevation.”

Williams said the underground system, which is expected to last decades, uses less water than traditional overhead irrigation and many growers see an increase in yield.

“The system is about 95 percent water efficient since the water is delivered directly to the root zone,” said Williams, who said the system will work in field of nearly any shape, size and elevation.

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The underground system is also fairly affordable. Installation representatives said the materials cost about $1,500 per acre. Each system is custom designed to meet the needs of each field. Approximately 2.5 acres of the specialized trickle tape can be installed in an hour using a special piece of equipment brought to the farm by the TRICKL-EEZ Company.

To help track the progress of the corn crop on Resler’s ground, two probes were installed to track rainfall, fertilizer levels and more.

“With ground like this, you don’t want to get behind with water,” said Betsy Bower with Ceres Solutions, which monitors the probes. “You want to stay on top of the game.”

Bower said the probes use a telemetry unit and crop metrics platform to translate data so that users know how much and when to water.

“Knowing where the roots are is key,” she said, as she showed the crowd gathered a chart detailing the probe results from the Resler’s ground. “Different farms and fields need to be managed differently.”

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Managing the needs of crops can be done through the subsurface drip system as well.

“Fertilizer can be applied through the system,” said Williams. “With this system, that fertilize will go directly to the roots. This system isn’t using anything new. It’s just using what we have available in a way that’s new to this area.”

• Reduces crop stress     • Prevents weed germination     • Eliminates herbicide washout     • Reduces labor requirements     • Eliminates surface evaporation     • Reduces maintenance costs

For more information on
TRICKL-EEZ Company and the subsurface drip irrigation system, visit or call 269-429-8200.

New Era 07

A-Mazing New Technology


Novel spraying system is incorporated into a maze built of rows of apple trees.

One of the tree fruit industry’s newest technologies is making its debut—amazingly—in a five-acre maze shaped like an apple and created, not out of corn, as most mazes are, but of apple trees.

Mazes are popular attractions. But how would one manage an orchard with all the twists, turns, and dead ends of a maze, especially the spraying? That’s the clever part.

Instead of having to wend their way down alleyways with conventional equipment, the managers of this new orchard will spray it with a permanent fixed-in-place system exactly like the one called the Solid-Set Canopy Delivery System.

The SSCD system is being researched at Washington State University, Michigan State University, and Cornell University. It looks so promising that some growers are ready to go with it right now.

The system going in at Royal Oak Farm Orchard was designed by John Nye at Trickl-eez Irrigation in St. Joseph, Michigan, the same person who put together the array of plumbing lines and spray nozzles in the researchers’ experimental orchards.

Paul Norton gives credit for the idea to his grandfather Peter Bianchini, the patriarch of the four-generation family that owns and operates Royal Oak Farm near Harvard, Illinois. “We were considering building a corn maze,” Paul said, “but there seemed to be plenty of those. We’re less than 20 miles from Richardson’s, the largest corn maze in the world. That’s when my grandfather said, ‘Why not apple trees?’”

Dennis Norton, Paul’s dad, said that when customers come to Royal Oak Farm Orchard, their goal is more than just to buy fruit. They want to “make a day of it.” They drive 45 minutes, if they come west from ­Milwaukee, or two hours if they come northwest from Chicago, to visit the farm on the Illinois-Wisconsin line.

They come to pick their own fruit, eat lunch at the restaurant, shop at the market and bakery, and engage in family activities such as hay wagon and carousel rides. Kids feed and pet animals in the petting zoo, play on playground toys, and engage in other activities that make Royal Oak an agricultural entertainment destination.

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Agricultural entertainment

Starting next summer, visitors will be able to stay another couple of hours and find their way through what is likely the country’s only maze made of apple trees. A-Maze-N’ Apples is in the final stages of growing, with spray lines to be installed this summer, and it will open in late summer of 2015 as a combination maze and you-pick orchard.

People will pick the apples and carry them out through the winding corridors. Luckily, there are shortcuts so apples need not be carried the full two miles of the total maze.

The maze was designed by Maze Play, the company that also designed the 33-acre corn maze at Richardson’s Adventure Farm in Spring Grove, Illinois. Maze Play created the apple shape using a computer program and provided GPS coordinates so Royal Oak employees could place each of the nearly 3,000 trees (in nine varieties) that make up the maze.

Royal Oak was founded by Peter and Gloria Bianchini in the early 1990s. Dennis Norton married their daughter, Renee, and they liked the farm so well the couple joined in the operation about 15 years ago. Their son Paul and daughter Sarah, and their spouses, joined in, and now Paul and Meghan have six young children, and Sarah and Justin have one. All are involved in the business, living in four homes on the farm property.

The farm grows apples (16,000 trees in 30 varieties), peaches (300 trees), and 15 acres of berries and pumpkins. Some produce is sold prepicked, especially peaches or the most expensive apple varieties like ­Honeycrisp, Zestar!, and Pristine.

“On a good Saturday, we’ll have four or five thousand people here picking apples,” Dennis said.

The farm has a large complex of buildings that include the Harvest Barn, which is you-pick headquarters; the Apple Barn where apples, pumpkins, gourds, squash, and a few other vegetables are sold; a barn where apple cider is made; a restaurant and bakery; and a pavilion that can be booked for weddings, birthdays, or other events. School kids watch videos before taking orchard tours.

“We’ve very much involved in educating the public,” Dennis said.

Constructing the maze

Paul described the overall maze as being about four and a half acres and nearly square. From the air, it looks like a classic Red Delicious apple with some leaves at the stem end. The nine varieties of apples were planted in several groups so that when a variety ripens, there are three or four areas where they can be picked.

The nine varieties in the maze, all planted on Malling 26 rootstocks, are Blondee, Snowsweet, Zestar!, Royal Court, Empire, Smoothee (Gibson Golden), Grand Gala, September Wonder Fuji, and Granny Smith.

“We also included about 70 Indian Summer Crab on M.26 as pollinators spread throughout the maze so we wouldn’t have to be concerned with proper cross pollination,” Dennis said. “There are approximately 2,813 apple trees plus the 70 crab apples.”

There are about two miles of paths, and it could take two to three hours for those who choose to “pick” their way through the whole maze, he said. There are benches and rest areas.

When the maze was laid out, the first thing installed was the main underground pipe system that will bring spray material to and from the orchard. Then the trees were planted, following carefully drawn, curved lines. Then 456 posts went in and the first trellis wires were installed.

Trickle irrigation lines were laid beside the tree rows, and then landscape fabric was placed for weed control. Mulch will be laid over the fabric. The idea was to avoid having to apply herbicides for weed control and to provide a good grassed orchard floor for you-pickers to walk on.

Everything will be mowed for easy foot traffic. Paul admits mowing a maze isn’t easy and the employees are using maps to make sure they don’t forget any areas.

The alleys are fairly uniform in width, but they vary somewhat from eight to twelve feet, Paul said. Trees are three feet apart.

The whole notion of mazes developed years ago in Europe, and mazes there were made of trees planted in hedgerows.  It was an American idea to plant corn and cut the maze pattern into the growing corn with mowers. The Royal Oak plan follows the European model, based on dense walls of perennial plants.

The apple trees will be trained to the ancient Roman system called espalier. The trees will be pruned and fastened to a wire trellis to keep each row dense but narrow. “The trees will be trained to grow more horizontal,” Paul said. He expects a dense foliage wall, two to two and a half feet thick, fixed to four trellis wires spaced at one and a half feet apart, with the hedge maintained at seven feet tall.

“We’ll probably get 10 to 15 percent lower production than we’d ideally like,” he said.

Pruning will be done by hand, but Paul believes the system may respond to mechanical hedging. He has a row of espalier trees elsewhere on the farm, planted to test it out.

Spray system

Visitors will not see the spray system in operation (see “How the maze will be sprayed”).

“Typically our last spray is in July,” Paul said, “a few weeks before the harvest season starts. With our IPM program, we’d had no issues after mid-July.”

Codling moth pressure has been minimal in the second generation, he said, and apple maggot is sprayed for when it shows up in late June or early July. Sprays to control apple scab are applied early and are not needed after petal fall.

They use a program called Biointensive IPM, which seeks to minimize pesticide use and employ biological strategies whenever possible. “We’re also willing to take some fruit loss,” Paul said. Royal Oak also keeps bees and sells honey at the market, and they believe the health of their bees is a testament to how well their pest management program works.

A destination

There’s no entry fee for visitors who come to Royal Oak, and the entertainment area, including the petting zoo, the playground equipment, and the picnic area, is open to all.

Tokens are for sale for $2.50 each, and these can be cashed in to ride on the Royal Oak Express train, the carousel, or take a farm orchard tour. The petting zoo has feed machines that take a quarter—and sanitizing hand washers for cleanup after. •

How the maze will be sprayed


John Nye, who owns Trickl-eez Irrigation, Benton Harbor, Michigan, does the irrigation work at Royal Oak Farm Orchard, so it is not surprising the owners were following his work with the experimental Solid-Set Spray Delivery System. They wanted to put it into their plan for a maze made of apple trees.

Nye described how the system works, step by step.

The system starts with a trailer that carries a small engine and a pump, a tank for spray material, an air compressor, and a line to hook the spray tank to a manifold at the edge of the orchard. There are two manifolds that serve the four-plus-acre maze.

The manifolds are the entry points bringing spray solution into underground piping that carries spray to risers. There are eight risers, each serving about a half acre. The risers take the spray solution to flexible plastic lines fastened to the top trellis wire.

On each line, there is an emitter—an irrigation-style spray head—every three feet. One of those sprays downward. The next one is a double spray head on a hanger that drops it lower in the canopy.

“Above every spray head is an LPD (a leak prevention device) that is a check valve that won’t spray until a critical pressure is reached,” Nye said. These are set at 35 pounds per square inch.

“The pump on the trailer delivers enough spray material, at pressure kept below 35 psi, into the polyethylene supply lines to fill each of the small reservoirs located above each emitter. Compressed air, again kept below 35 psi, is used to push any extra spray material not needed to fill the ­reservoirs back to the supply tank,” he said.

The pressure from the air compressor is then raised above 35 psi, at which point all the emitters open simultaneously. Spraying takes place for ten seconds, emptying the reservoirs. The pressure is then reduced below 35 psi, and the emitters close, Nye said.

It takes less than three minutes to spray a zone, and the system can do two zones at a time, so total spray time for the whole maze is less than 15 minutes. Add another 10 minutes to move the trailer from one manifold to the other and the entire acreage is covered.

“The beauty of this is that if everything works well in the maze, it’ll work in any orchard anywhere,” Paul Norton, an owner of Royal Oak, said. “We hope this will be educational for other growers as well as the public. It’s complicated, but it’s exciting.”

For more information about Royal Oak Farm Orchard, visit its website, Videos on YouTube show phases of the maze’s construction.

By |May 7th, 2014

Underground Drip Irrigation Serves Two Purposes

Dispose of wastewater and irrigate trees.

Water is plentiful in the fruit-growing area along Lake Michigan’s eastern shore, so it’s not scarcity that’s an issue. The problem is with some water that’s been made slightly dirty but is perfectly useful if ­handled right.

That’s led some fruit growers and fruit processors to make double use of wastewater through subsurface trickle ­irrigation systems installed in fruit orchards. The system uses water that would otherwise be wasted, to irrigate. However, with all wastewater, it needs to be treated to make sure it is environmentally friendly. There is additional info that can be found about this process over at to make sure everything is up to code.

As Beau Shacklette tells it, a fruit-­processing company approached the company he works for, Trickl-Eez Company in St. Joseph, Michigan, wanting an onsite system for disposal of wastewater from their processing plant. Trickl-Eez, working with an environmental engineering company, developed the Agricultural Wastewater Dispersal System that Trickl-Eez now sells and installs.

Shacklette, the regional sales manager for Trickl-Eez in Traverse City, Michigan, has installed systems at four fruit-­processing companies and for a few growers since getting state Department of Natural Resources approval for the system four years ago.

The fruit-processing companies need to get rid of wastewater they have used to cool, wash, or handle fruit or vegetables, Shacklette said. The water contains low levels of soluble solids and nutrients. The companies are located away from municipal sewage disposal systems and needed either to install their own waste treatment plants or come up with methods ­acceptable to the state.

On-land disposal of such water through irrigation is legal, but in northwest Michigan there is a long winter season when the land is frozen and won’t accept surface-applied water. Putting the water into the ground below the frost layer solves that problem.

The orchardists, mostly growers of tart cherries, use cold well water to cool fruit during harvest in July. While this water is not considered a waste requiring treatment, there is a lot of it leaving cooling pads and trying to find its way somewhere. “Growers know it’s just a matter of time until they have to contain and ­dispose of the water that runs off their cooling pads,” Shacklette said.

Trickle irrigation is growing as a practice, especially in young cherry orchards, so the water has a use.

The system Trickl-Eez developed is a grid of underground drip irrigation tubing that runs down the rows and alleys of fruit orchards. Some of the processing companies are growers themselves, so they have their own orchards, or there are orchards close by they can access. In some cases, they’ve installed the systems in open fields devoted to production of hay.

“One important requirement was that the disposal system be able to operate year round,” Shacklette said. “A sub­surface drip irrigation system was chosen as the best delivery system to move lagoon discharge water to adjacent fruit orchards where the trees can benefit from the nutrients in the water as well as receiving beneficial irrigation water.”

Allen Steimel, the plant general manager for Leelanau Fruit Company near Suttons Bay, about 20 miles north of Traverse City, said his company installed a four-acre system a year ago as an expansion for their on-land sprinkler irrigation disposal system.

Maraschino cherries

“We process brined cherries for maraschinos,” he said, “so we work year around using stored cherries. We needed a way to dispose of water during the ­winter time.”

The water is only marginally dirty since it’s used to move cherries that contain some residual brine solution. The actual spent brine is disposed of by injection into deep wells.

In the summer, water used in the pitting operation contains more nutrients, and that is spray irrigated since frozen ground is not an issue.

The company needs to dispose of about 22 million gallons of water a year, and most of that is sprinkler irrigated onto land that grows hay for horses, Steimel said.

Other systems Shacklette has installed vary in size from 5 to 16 acres. When installed in existing orchards, he said, usually three lines are run down each alley. Lines run on both sides of a tree row, about 30 inches from the trees, and one down the center of the alley.

In the fruit area in northwest Michigan, soil is often sandy to gravelly, and trees, especially young trees, benefit greatly from irrigation, and many growers use trickle irrigation in young orchards.

To make the drip irrigation disposal system work, water has to be relatively free from solids or the emitters will clog. In the processing plant systems he designs, Shacklette likes to have two lagoons, linked in series, that serve as settling ponds that remove much of the organic matter. Then the water is pumped through filters before getting into the drip lines. Water from cooling pads does not contain enough solids to require ­filtration.

Shacklette, who originally came to Michigan from Colorado and is experienced in irrigation systems, thinks this system will work well for food processing plants in any environment anywhere.

“The Agricultural Wastewater Dispersal System can be expanded to many other sites,” he said. “It provides a very practical, affordable, and common-sense solution to the previously very difficult problem of how to manage agricultural wastewater and put it to a beneficial use rather than create an environmental problem.”

Food safety

There is also a food safety aspect to drip irrigation. Since no effluent water is sprayed onto foliage or fruit, there are no contamination issues, Shacklette said.

Unlike sprinkler application, where water slams the ground, compacting it and causing surface runoff, subsurface irrigation lets the soil act as a huge absorption system and biofilter, he said. Growing plants and trees can benefit from the water and the nutrients it contains.

The loading rate needs to be designed to fit the soil type, and the system is computer controlled to dispense the correct amount of water, Shacklette said. Trees must be able to absorb the nutrients in the water or they can leach down below the root zone.

System components

The dispersal system includes several ­components.

First are the pretreatment lagoons, where oxygen is added to provide aerobic, odor-free conditions for breakdown of solids in the wastewater.

Next are the computer controls and pumps that move the water in a ­controlled dosing cycle.

Filters are very important, Shacklette said, to keep the drip tubes from plugging.

The drip system in the field or orchards is divided into zones, to which water entry is controlled by valves.

The final part is the underground drip lines that are buried from one to two feet deep. The lines contain pressure-­compensating emitters.

“One of the biggest advantages to the subsurface drip system is the ability to provide the dose and rest cycles that facilitate wastewater infiltration into the soil,” Shacklette said. “Timed doses allow for the even distribution of the liquid waste throughout the day or night.”

By |April 1st, 2012|

Performance Report – Solid-set Canopy Spray Delivery System

Solid-set canopy spray delivery system looks good in first year of tests.

After a year of work, the team of researchers developing Solid-Set Canopy Delivery Systems has issued its first report—and the results look promising.

Control of codling moth and mildew was “not quite as good” as airblast sprayer application, but acceptable, the report says. Coverage for most foliar inputs was adequate. Sunburn protection was comparable, but postbloom thinning was less complete when materials were applied by SSCDS. Beneficial mite populations were higher.

Some things need tweaking as the project proceeds.

As part of the project, surveys were mailed to apple growers in Michigan and Washington, asking their opinion about the idea of having an orchard spray system ­permanently installed in place, rather than driving ­tractors and hauling sprayers up and down orchard alleys multiple times each season.

Nearly 500 growers, representing 40 percent of the apple acreage in the two states, responded. They said they’d consider installing such a system, especially if they already have a trellis system in place to support it.

Focus groups in Michigan, Washington, and New York wanted to know more: How much will it cost to establish and maintain? Can it be adapted to different size blocks and trees? How much knowledge and training will managers and field workers need to operate and maintain the system?

From the researchers’ point of view, the results will help them refine the system. And one more experimental possibility will be tested this year: Can the system be used in the spring to apply water as a cooling mist to delay bud development and avoid late spring freezes?

In Michigan, freezes were so devastating in 2012, there was virtually no fruit on which to test the spray system’s ability to control insect and disease pests. Most of that work was done in Washington. This spring, dormancy was extended by cold weather, but a damaging freeze did occur on May 13, so test conditions were in place.

Moreover, installations have been made at several growers’ orchards, so new tests will be made using field-scale, commercial conditions.

Evolved quickly

The project is being conducted in three states, led by project directors Drs. Matt Grieshop at Michigan State University, Jay Brunner at Washington State University, and Art Agnello at New York’s Cornell University.

Already 15 years ago, Agnello had tested a fixed-in-place spray system using irrigation lines and sprinkers to apply pesticides. But when the SSCDS systems were installed last year at Michigan State’s Clarksville Experiment Station and Washington State’s Prosser site, the design was far advanced from a few lines and sprinklers strung through the trees.

The new designs were the concept of John Nye of Trickl-eez Irrigation in St. Joseph, Michigan, and based on work done by Art Agnello and sprayer specialist Dr. Andrew Landers at Cornell University.

Some practical problems needed to be solved. While it seems simple enough to spray pesticide solutions through irrigation lines and sprinklers, what happens next? How would the lines be cleared out? If clear water were used to flush the lines, would it wash off the newly applied spray material?

A novel method was developed, which consists of two major components:

1) the canopy delivery system and 2) the applicator.

The canopy delivery system is a network of polyethylene irrigation tubing run through the orchard block in a continuous loop with an input and output line that attaches to the applicator.

The applicator consists of three major components: 1) a pumping system, 2) an air compressor and 3) a tank for mixing, providing, and recapturing spray material for the canopy delivery system.

The four-stage spray procedure consists of the ­following steps:

1) Charging: Spray material is premixed in the spray applicator and then pumped through the main line at low pressure (less than 18 psi).
2) Spraying: The return line is closed and pressure increased to greater than 30 psi allowing the check valves to open and material to exit through the microsprayers for the time needed to apply 70-100 gallons per acre (less than 15 seconds).
3) Recovery: The return valve is re-opened, and the air compressor set at less than 18 psi to blow any fluid remaining in the main line back into the spray applicator.
4) Cleaning: The return valve is closed and the air compressor set to higher pressure (greater than 30 psi) to clear any remaining spray material out of the microsprayers.


While the microsprayer emitters are well developed, it is not clear what kinds of materials might need to be used in constructing the lines. They researchers tested both rigid PVC pipe used in plumbing and flexible polyethylene hose.

The microspinklers were spaced three feet apart on drop downs three feet long.

There was a somewhat larger pressure drop on the flexible polyethylene hose. “These data suggest that PVC is a superior material for SSCDS plumbing,” the report says, but polyethylene is widely used for irrigation and growers are adept at handling it.

Details about the project, and the first report, are available online at


By |July 1st, 2013



New Spray Concept Proves Feasible

A fixed-in-place orchard spraying system is fast becoming something to consider.

If we had to irrigate orchards by pulling tanks of water down the alleys, would we do it?

We do that now with pesticides and plant growth regulators, hauling loads of water with small amounts of chemicals in them, then blasting the mixtures into the trees.

Only about a year ago, researchers at land grant universities across the United States obtained funding to investigate the feasibility of using a fixed-in-place system of pipes and nozzles-like a solid-set irrigation system-instead of airblast sprayers. They call the system the Solid-Set Canopy Delivery System, or the SSCDS.

At a field day in July at Michigan State University’s fruit experiment station in Clarksville, Michigan, the Michigan contingent of researchers gathered to show growers the working model built for them to do their studies and to report on progress they have made in less than two years.

The words “proof of concept” were used several times-meaning the scientists think they have proved that several things work as hypothesized-but the system’s not ready for commercial application. (It is believed, however, that some growers are trying it in small blocks in their orchards.)

What are some of these things that work, these “proofs of concept”?

Misting to extend dormancy

This spring, Dr. Jim Flore was able to delay apple trees from emerging from dormancy by eight days by misting them to keep them cool longer as spring was arriving. In sweet cherry trees, emergence from dormancy was delayed by 11 days.

“The long-term goal is to develop an effective, environmentally friendly method to protect sweet cherry and apple buds and flowers from spring frost damage and to delay bloom by cooling the buds once dormancy has been broken,” he said.

Flore said research years ago showed that applying water and allowing it to evaporate would lower temperatures, and since bud development is directly related to temperature, keeping them wet keeps them dormant. The problem was, it took large amounts of water when applied by conventional overhead irrigation sprinklers.

In experiments in the 1970s, it took up to 36 inches of applied water-an amount that caused trees to tip over, saturated and eroded orchard soil, and led to poorer fruit set and disease.

This year, the cooling effect was achieved with the ­application of 2 to 3 inches of water over nearly six weeks from early April to mid-May.

New technology-computers, data loggers, thermocouples, temperature sensors, solenoid valves-allowed Flore to set up a system that monitored bud temperature and responded to it.

In case you were not already aware, a solenoid is a coil of wire that is used as an electromagnet. Almost any device that converts electrical energy to mechanical energy uses a solenoid.

Put simply, the device creates a magnetic field from an electric current and then uses this magnetic field to create linear motion. Common uses for solenoids include powering a switch, like the starter in an automobile, or a valve, such as in a sprinkler system.

Furthermore, you can learn more about these types of mechanical parts by taking a look at these Woodward Solenoids.

“Programming was not difficult,” Flore said.

When bud temperature rose above 37°F, the computer turned on the water mist.

The cooling effect lasted until all the water evaporated, when the bud temperature would again rise. The length of time the mist was on, and the length of time between mistings, depended on temperature and relative humidity. In his tests, Flore found that at 75?F, the mist came on for 105 seconds and was off for only 3 minutes. But at 39?F, the misting interval was 20 minutes.

The cooling effect was immediate. Bud temperatures dropped by 15?F within 90 ­seconds.

With the cool spring this year, the system ran only 58 hours all spring, he said, and used about 1,000 gallons per tree. “If we had had this in place a year ago, we would have had a crop-not a full crop-but a crop,” he said. In 2012, a series of 21 spring freeze events reduced Michigan’s apple and cherry crops by 90 percent.

Research was conducted at three locations. There was only one significant freeze event in Michigan this year-the night of May 12-13. At one orchard location, the freeze killed 51 percent of the apple flowers in the control orchard, but only 17 percent in the mist-cooled orchard.

While cooling early in spring sets back emergence from dormancy, by mid-July the crop had caught up. Early cooling did not greatly reduce growing degree-day accumulation, Flore said.

Thinning apples

Phil Schwallier, director of the Clarksville station with particular expertise in apple thinning, used the SSCD system to apply the apple thinners NAA and Sevin three times this spring.

Data had not been collected in July, but visitors could easily see that the control Honeycrisp trees were overloaded and those thinned with the airblast sprayer were not as well thinned as those under the SSCD treatment. Only mild hand thinning would be needed there.

Entomologist Dr. John Wise noted that the SSCD system could save growers money and be kinder to the environment in several ways: “Application of lower doses on a tighter interval could reduce total product use,” he said. The 14-day spray interval many growers use for insect control requires that enough product be applied to last 14 days. “There is a lot of waste in that,” he said.

Plant pathologist Dr. George Sundin was not there to present disease data, but Wise said the system was used to apply insecticides, several fungicides, and antibiotics for fireblight control. Entomologist Dr. Larry Gut is conducting experiments applying mating disruption pheromones.

Gut has found that codling moth is very choosy about when it is active and that timing sprays of insecticides or pheromones could be improved with an all-at-one-time application through SSCD compared to a long spray operation with an airblast sprayer.

In Wise’s tests this year, he found that uniformity of deposition with the SSCD still needs to be improved. Deposition of spray material tends to be less uniform on tops or bottoms of leaves and closer or further from emitters.

The air blast of sprayers tends to overcome any wind effect and agitate foliage, which keeps foliage from blocking spray from nozzles. Wise said care will have to be taken in locating SSCD emitters so they are not blocked.

The emitters release smaller spray droplets than do airblast sprayers, but because there is not much force behind the release, off-target drift is less. Emitters are, however, more likely to clog than are airblast spray nozzles.

The SSCD is being tested at two locations in Washington-Prosser and Wenatchee-and also at Cornell University in New York State. Michigan State University entomologist Dr. Matt Grieshop is overall project director; Dr. Jay Brunner is directing the Washington work and Dr. Art Agnello the New York work.

In the West, the researchers are working to refine the application technology and also researching use of the system for summer cooling and to reduce sunburn.

How the SSCD ­system works

The Solid-Set Canopy Delivery System for spray application is much more ­sophisticated than would be a similar solid-set irrigation system.

Michigan State University horticulturists Dr. Matt Grieshop, project director, and Dr. Ron Perry, who worked with irrigation expert John Nye at Trickl-eez Irrigation to lay out the experimental system, explained that there are several steps in the spraying system; it’s more than just turning on the water to irrigate.

The applicator consists of four major components-a pumping system, a tank for mixing sprays, an air compressor, and a loop of plastic line carrying spray material into the orchard and back to the mixing tank.

Spraying takes place in four steps:

Charging: The premixed spray material is pumped into the main application line at low pressure, less than 18 psi. This is called charging the system. It fills the line with spray material.

Spraying: The return line is closed and the pressure is increased in the spray line to about 30 psi. This opens the spray emitters and allows the application of the ­equivalent of 70 to 100 gallons per acre of spray material.

Recovery: The return line valve is opened and the air compressor blows any remaining fluid in the mainline back to the spray tank.

Cleaning: The return valve is closed and the air compressor bumps to a higher pressure to clear any remaining material out of the microsprayers.

The use of an air compressor was chosen because using water to clean the lines would wash off the spray materials that had just been applied to the foliage.

By |September 1st, 2013|

No More Airblast Spraying?

Goal is to perfect a Solid Set Canopy Delivery System for all sprays.

Think of all the materials you put on your orchard through your airblast sprayer: Insecticides, fungicides, antibiotics, chemical thinners, plant growth ­regulators, sunburn protectants, foliar nutrients, anticracking agents.

Now suppose that, instead of lugging them up and down the alleys in dozens of trips and thousands of gallons of water in all sorts of weather, there was a fixed-in-place spray application system that could do all those things—and others as well. How about dispensing pheromones using emitters instead of putting up twisty ties? How about cooling the orchard with mists of water, or applying water for irrigation or frost control?

And how about doing these things in seconds instead of hours—putting on all your fungicide at the exact proper time instead of dragging the process out as the apple scab and cherry leaf spot spores ripen and infect new tissue or the critical time for apple thinning passes by.

Developing such a system is the goal of a $4.5 million, two-year project funded last year by the Specialty Crops Research Initiative. The system is called the Solid Set Canopy Delivery System, using the image of a solid-set irrigation system suspended in an orchard canopy.

Dr. Matt Grieshop, Michigan State University entomologist, is lead investigator. Twenty-six scientists across the country are co-investigators, exploring the idea of installing a stationary spray application system in the tree canopy, supported by the trellis, that could apply spray materials in a fraction of the time it would take using a tractor and sprayer.

Modern orchard systems—with densely spaced trees supported by trellises—were designed primarily to improve production and make it easier for workers to access the trees and fruit. Scientists now hope to take advantage of modern tree architecture to deliver another benefit—the ability to apply pesticides to the orchard without needing to drive a sprayer through it.

Two-year project

Originally, Grieshop said, the grant proposal asked for $12 million and five years. Only two years were approved, with a proviso that, if the work looked promising, the ­scientists could apply for more funding.

The scientists jumped into the new project this year, hoping to generate the data that would extend the project, which they think could lead to a paradigm shift of huge proportion—but can’t be done in two years.

“Airblast spraying was designed for orchards with huge canopies,” Grieshop said, “not for fruiting walls. It is outmoded technology.”

In use for more than half a century, the airblast sprayer may go the way of the dodo bird, he suggests.

In field days in Washington and Michigan, the researchers showed just how much they were able to do in one year.

Horticulturists, entomologists, pathologists, engineers, and economists established replicated trials at Washington State University’s research orchards in Wenatchee (apples) and Prosser (cherries), at Cornell University and at Fowler Farms in New York, and at several sites in Michigan, including orchards at the Clarksville Horticultural Experiment Station, at the East Lansing research orchard, and at the Belding farm of Ed and Mike Wittenbach.

John Nye with Trickl-eez Irrigation in Michigan is involved in designing the systems and in testing them in the commercial orchards in Michigan and New York.

Dr. Jay Brunner, director of WSU’s Tree Fruit Research and Extension Center in Wenatchee, said trials were conducted in Washington this summer to compare codling moth and mildew control in blocks where the pesticide was delivered through the solid set system versus by an airblast sprayer. Trials in the eastern United States are looking at how the different spray application systems affect control of fireblight and scab. The systems vary in design and type and density of emitters.

During a summer field day at WSU’s Sunrise research orchard, Brunner explained that the tubing the emitters are attached to forms a big loop. Once the loop is filled with solution, the pressure is raised using an air compressor, and the emitters all come on at the same time, delivering 100 gallons per acre of solution in 13 seconds. After the spray is applied, the solution in the system is recaptured, and the system is cleaned out with air.

In Michigan, experiments were set up in apples and sweet cherries, with the sweet cherries being grown in high tunnels. A few years ago, MSU horticulturist Dr. Greg Lang began work with the fixed-in-place spray system for sweet cherries in tunnels.

Two years ago, MSU entomologist Dr. Larry Gut began looking at delivering pheromones for mating disruption through a similar system.

Dr. Jim Flore said that disasters like the one that struck Michigan’s fruit crops this year because of very warm weather in March followed by April freezes may be preventable in the future. Research has shown that bud development can be set back two to four weeks by using evaporative cooling when temperatures rise above 50°F, he said.

Ines Hanrahan, with the Washington Tree Fruit Research Commission, will compare standard overhead cooling systems with the solid-set system for sunburn control. Typically, an overhead cooling system applies water for a 15-minute period when the temperature reaches a threshold. The solid-set system would apply water for only 35 seconds at a time but more frequently so the total amount applied would be the same, Brunner said.

Flore also envisions using the system to apply calcium sprays to prevent sweet cherries from cracking and to apply growth regulators such as ethephon.

Dr. Mark Whalon notes that, when moisture is adequate in the soil, nematodes can be used to eliminate plum curculio larvae pupating in the soil. Could this system provide that moisture?

Phil Schwallier, who works with chemical thinning of fruit and use of Apogee to shorten apple terminal growth, said, “This system should be used for everything. It should totally replace the airblast sprayer.”

MSU horticulturist Dr. Ron Perry was called on to work with engineers to develop the system itself. He was in charge of the installations at Clarksville.

MSU entomologist Dr. John Wise is studying deposition patterns. He wants to see how the application system affects the amount of spray deposited on the orchard floor and on the upper and lower surfaces of the leaves and how different kinds and placements of emitters affects coverage.

In New York, reservoir systems are being studied. Instead of filling the lines with spray material, reservoirs above each emitter could be filled with the exact amount of spray material needed to fill its space. Less material would be needed to fill the lines—a serious consideration. Perry said it takes 150 gallons of material to fill the lines in the two-acre test orchard at Clarksville, and 12 to 20 seconds to apply about 70 gallons per acre.

There was long discussion at the field day at the Clarksville station about how different materials require different levels of coverage on foliage and how the system would have to be operated differently to apply them.

Brunner said there are other issues to explore in the long term. For example, if an acre of orchard can be treated in a couple of minutes, can pesticides be applied at lower rates but more frequently?

“We’re thinking we can move more and more towards a low-residue approach, but that’s yet to be determined,” he said. “That’s not the objective of the current project.”

Grieshop and Wise both noted that wind affects airblast sprayers and the fixed system differently. A slight wind might help move the spray through the canopy when it’s applied by a solid-set system, Grieshop said. Airblast sprayers overcome the effect of wind by supplying abundant wind of their own.

Economists are also part of the project. The cost of installing such a system could be high but offset by savings in equipment, labor, and time—and the loss of fruit quality that can come from lack of application timeliness.

10 Amazing Facts About Water

10 Wateer Facts

January 29 , 2015 | Author: Richard Restuccia | Agriculture

1- There is the same amount of water on earth today as when the earth was formed. (Ewww factor or cool factor?) The water coming out of your faucet today could contain molecules ancient humans used thousands of years ago.

2- Need some cocktail conversation for the World Ag Expo? Frozen water is lighter than water by about 9%, which is why ice floats in water. Remind me of this at the Expo and I will give you a Jain Blog sticker.

3- If the world population continues to grow at the current rate, by the end of the century the world will have over 10 billion people (There are over 7 billion people today). Feeding this many people will require more food to be grown in the next 75 years than all the food ever produced in human history. This food will require lots of water and more efficient methods of irrigation.

4- This is hard for most Americans to believe, a quarter of the world’s population is without safe drinking water. This impacts food production too. You can help by supporting organizations like Chapin Living Waters. To make sure the drinking water in your home is safe to use, you could invest in water filtration products. Check out product reviews here –

5- Singing in the shower, next time you shower think about this instead. Two thirds of the water used in a home is used in the bathroom.

6- Older toilets can use up to seven gallons of water per flush. At five flushes per day that is almost 13,000 gallons per year. The EPA has some recommendations about toilets here. Federal plumbing standards specify new toilets can only use 1.6 gallons per flush or almost 3,000 gallons per year. That is still a lot of clean drinking water per flush and also begs the question, why do we use clean drinking water in our toilets?

7- In a five minute shower we use 25 to 50 gallons of water. If you take a Navy shower you will keep this to around 3 gallons of water. That is a boat load of savings.

8- When water contains a lot of calcium and magnesium, it is called hard water. In our homes, we like to soften hard water as it causes issues for our hair, washing, and appliances. If hard water is causing problems in your home, you might want to speak to some water softener experts like Silkflow to see how they could assist you in solving your problems. You might find that filtering your water will solve any issues you may be having, in which case a simple solution to would be to contact a plumbing service that is equipped to filtrate water (you could navigate to this website to see one company that supplies this). If the chemical levels in your water are wrong then it could not only leave a bad taste but it could also affect the expensive appliances like baths in your house, therefore getting the problem fixed would be the best solution. You can get more information about water problems on websites like if you want to learn more about this.

9- A person can live about three weeks without food, but only about three days without water.

10- The United States uses nearly 80 percent of its water for irrigation and thermoelectric power.

I hope you enjoyed these facts about water. The first step in water conservation is raising awareness of why we need to conserve. hope you will take some time to share some of your favorite facts with others.

If you like this post please consider subscribing to the blog or follow me on twitter at @H2oTrends.

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Hartford Grower Chairs Michigan Ag


From “Moody on the Market”, by Pat Moody 01/22/2015

The legend of High Acres Fruit Farm in Hartford has a new milestone with the election this week of a member of the Meachum family to the chairmanship of the Michigan Commission of Agriculture & Rural Development.

Trever Meachum is Production Manager for High Acres Fruit Farm, and his election Wednesday has been announced by the Michigan Department of Agriculture & Rural Development.

Meachum comes from a family owned and operated farm that had its beginnings back in 1942 when Glenn & Catherine Meachum purchased 80-acres of land in Hartford Township of Van Buren County to raise peaches and cherries. Over the years since that foundation was set, the Meachum family has expanded and diversified the farm. Courtesy of the modernization of commercial greenhouse construction and design, the farm looks fairly different these days.

High Acres Fruit Farm now farms 2,500 acres of a variety of fruit crops along with vegetables and row crops including apples, plums, cherries, nectarines, strawberries, grapes, peppers, tomatoes, corn, soybeans, and wheat.

Meachum will chair the commission for the 2015-2016 growing year. The new Vice Chair is Fred Walcott, who works alongside his parents and two sisters at Valley View Pork, a family-owned 4,000 acre farm raising hogs, and producing corn, wheat and soybeans. The new commission Secretary is Dru Montri, who owns & operates Ten Hens Farm in Bath, Michigan. She has also been the director of the Michigan Farmers Market Association since its inception 9 years ago in 2006.

Jamie Clover Adams is Director of the Michigan Department of Agriculture & Rural Development. She says, “I’m grateful for the willingness of these individuals to serve Michigan’s food and agricultural community.” She adds, “Our state’s dynamic food and agriculture sector is ripe with opportunities and I look forward to working with the Commission as we continue our upward growth trend.”

Meachum’s family also owns and operates Meachum Farms Trucking and Paw Paw River Produce — a cold storage and warehousing facility. The farm launched the Spencer brand tomato label in 2005, a brand now recognized throughout the Midwest and East coast as a premium product brand.

The Meachum crew’s accolades also include the Michigan Farm Bureau Farm Stewardship Award in 2006, and a year later in 2007 the Master Farmer Award from the Michigan Vegetable Council.

The Michigan Commission of Agriculture & Rural Development is a bipartisan board appointed by the Governor with the responsibility to recommend and, in some cases, determine, policy on food, agriculture, and rural development issues.

In the photo accompanying this story on Moody on the, Trever Meachum is shown standing on the far right of the photo behind the cab of the truck.


ST. JOSEPH – John Nye never got away from the family farm in Royalton Township, but the products made by his company are helping grow food in Peru, Saudi Arabia, Canada and Mexico, as well as all over the United States.

25thNye and his wife, Sandra, own the TRICKL-EEZ Company. “We started in 1972 and incorporated in 1973,” Sandra said, thus the company is celebrating it’s 25th anniversary this year.

TRICKL-EEZ makes trickle irrigation systems that water plants by letting water trickle onto the ground and into the root system. Fertilizer also can be fed through the system.

Nye has a degree in horticulture from Michigan State University. After graduating, he learned about trickle irrigation from an MSU professor, Al Kenworthy, who had studied the systems pioneered in Israel.withFlow

Back on the home farm after graduating, Nye installed trickle irrigation in a pear orchard. “The results were really outstanding,” he said. Thus TRICKL-EEZ was born.

John farmed full-time for 13 years with his father, Harry, and brothers Gordon and Dale before starting TRICKL-EEZ, then farmed part-time for two more years until the company became full-time.

TRICKL-EEZ is located at 4266 Hollywood Road in Royalton Township, on part of what was the family farm.

What made the system developed by Nye unique was the electronic control system he developed to control the flow of water and nutrients and to direct it to one area or another on a farm.

The system is patented in the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia. Over the years, it bas been refined and simplified.

TRICKL-EEZ supervises installation of new systems and installs the pump and control units, whereas most competitors only sell the parts, according to Nye.

“We started, because of my background, on the fruit industry,” Nye said. Vegetables and tree and plant nurseries came later. “Nursery is probably the biggest share now,” he said.

TRICKL-EEZ has benefited from several trends in agriculture.

• Most nursery stock for retail sale is now grown from scratch in plastic pots, rather than in the ground and then transplanted into pots for sale. Trickle irrigation is ideal for controlling the flow of water and nutrients into each pot.

• Apple growers are shifting to dwarf trees. Because there’s more trees per acre, yields increase, plus harvesting is easier from smaller trees. But dwarf trees have shallower roots than do regular trees, making irrigation more critical, so trickle irrigation is ideal.

• Growers for reasons of economic survival need to grow more high quality produce cheaper. John Nye said supplemental watering of dwarf apple trees with trickle irrigation can result in 90-95 percent top quality fruit, compared to only 60-70 percent with older non-dwarf trees, with or without irrigation.

Whereas 700-800 30-pound boxes per acre of tomatoes or peppers is considered good when grown conventionally, without irrigation, Nye said, growers using trickle irrigation have grown up to 2,000 boxes of peppers and 2,500 boxes of tomatoes per acre.

The ability to grow more on less acres has importance beyond increasing farmers’ profit margins. “We really feel what we are doing is important to the future,” John Nye said. “We have to keep increasing production to feed the people of the world.”

Until now, trickle irrigation has been used in growing fruit, vegetables and nursery stock, which usually has the irrigation lines running along the ground.

But Nye this year helped install two systems in Virginia for growing corn. The pipes were laid 12-14 inches below ground, beyond the reach of chisel plows, and 3-5 feet apart.

He said a similar experimental system in Virginia yielded 300 bushels of corn per acre, far in excess of normal.

Although TRICKL-EEZ has sold systems in foreign countries, including one in Israel, most of it’s business is in the Midwest and the East.

Including the Nyes and a branch in Biglerville, Pa., TRICKL-EEZ has 14 employees.

“There’s a lot of room for increasing sales, but it’s a very competitive business right now,” John Nye said.