Drip vs Overhead Irrigation (Part 5)

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Originally published in Growing Magazine’s July 2014 issue.

Minimal investments for a strong ROI

For large-scale commercial growers, overhead irrigation is more economically feasible.

Drip systems typically cost $500 to $1,200 or more per acre. Part of the total cost is capital investment, and another part is the annual cost of disposable components. In some fields, growers may need to replace sections of their drip tubing every season. This adds to the cost of removal and disposal or recycling. The numbers do not include the additional cost of frost protection or germination systems.

The cost of a solid set system depends on whether it’s a permanent installation or a portable system. Permanent systems can be costly to install, since laterals need to be placed underground, with only sprinklers and risers above the ground. However, since the system is not moved around the field, labor costs are minimal.

An irrigation system needs to be cost-effective, and it needs to be designed for each grower’s goals, crops, management style and soil.

Portable systems are less expensive, but they come with higher labor requirements. These systems use a lateral pipeline with sprinklers installed at regular intervals. When irrigation is complete in one area, the lateral line needs to be disassembled and moved to the next position.

While installation of a solid set system is not always cheap, one of the main advantages is the need for less tubing and equipment. In most solid set systems, sprinklers can be spaced 6 to 18 meters apart and still provide uniform application. Drip tubing needs to be set up around 1 meter to 0.5 meter apart.

In larger fields, a substantial amount of drip tubing is needed to irrigate crops, and the tubing may only last a few seasons. According to an article in California Agriculture, the cost of the drip tubing and emission devices is approximately 25 percent of the initial expense. However, these components have the shortest durability.


Originally published in Growing Magazine’s July 2014 issue.

Less Complicated Farm Management at a Lower Cost

After switching to drip irrigation, growers initially use less water, save money and get similar yields as they did with an overhead system. Once that first year passes, the grower realizes that the system is complex and high-maintenance. Replicating the first year’s results requires several hours of labor and a keen eye for detail.

Drip systems need to function efficiently throughout the entire growing season. Any failure at a critical point in the production cycle can cause severe crop losses. Unfortunately, system failures are often the result of inadequate maintenance.

Drip systems need constant filter monitoring and frequent flushes or replacements to prevent plugging. Emitter orifices range from 0.2 to 2 millimeters and are easily plugged by algae, fertilizer deposits, and minerals like calcium and iron.

The system’s filter should be flushed daily to prevent plugging, and an inspection of the entire system should be conducted weekly. Without proper filtration, water pressures will eventually crack the plugged lines. Chemicals also need to be incorporated into the grower’s management strategy to dissolve mineral concentrations that can plug emitters.


Overhead systems require less filtration, since sprinklers have larger orifice sizes. This makes them suitable for growers who get irrigation water from lakes and rivers. The visible application pattern also makes it easier for growers to identify potential system issues before they adversely affect crop growth.

Drip systems are sensitive and more prone to damage than overhead systems. Rodents, weed cutters, laborers, mechanical harvesting equipment and even the sun can damage drip systems.

Overhead systems use PVC lines, steel piping and corrosion-resistant thermoplastics. Solid set installations have been known to last anywhere from 10 to 30 years. The underground tubing and piping of permanent solid set systems generally last around 30 years in the field, while risers and overhead sprinklers can last 10 to 15 years. Solid set systems also bring the added benefits of high automation and low labor requirements, adaptation to the rotation of crops, and recovery irrigation.


Learn More

Part 5: Affordability and Profits: Investing in Drip and Sprinklers

Originally published in Growing Magazine’s July 2014 issue.

Xcel-Wobblers protecting cherries from frost damage.

System Versatility

Irrigation systems are vital for crop germination and are frequently used to distribute fertilizers or chemicals. In colder climates, overhead systems are also used for frost protection.

Both drip and overhead systems can be used for fertigation or chemigation. However, drip can limit the options when it comes to product selection.

Growers can use foliar or soil-applied fertilizers with sprinklers. Foliar fertilizers are ideal for correcting nutrient deficiencies and reducing postharvest disorders. Foliar products take advantage of the leaves’ effectiveness in transporting nutrients.

Certain soil conditions, such as high pH, low pH, drought, excessive moisture or cool temperatures, can make nutrient uptake through roots difficult. This means soil-applied fertilizers can keep crops healthy if the pH isn’t limiting nutrient availability.

Overhead systems also provide better pesticide options. With sprinklers, growers can throw chemicals on the underside of leaves, where insects and their eggs may hide. This helps prevent plant diseases and fungal problems caused by common pests.

When it comes to germination, overhead sprinklers apply water over the entire soil surface in a pattern similar to rainfall. The rain-like pattern makes sprinklers suitable for germination and irrigation, which is why sprinklers are used throughout the growing season. Drip systems place water near the drip line and are not as effective at germinating small seeds. This is especially true for sandy soils, since water may not be able to disperse horizontally and encourage root expansion.

Many growers with drip systems rely on other means of wetting the soil before they attempt germination. Nature doesn’t always cooperate, so growers may use overhead systems to imitate rainfall. If they decide to continue with drip for germination, they must pay attention to soil preparation, drip tape placement and irrigation scheduling.

Perhaps the biggest benefit of overhead systems is their ability to protect crops from frost damage in cold climates.

Sprinklers can protect crops from frost damage if evaporation is low but dew points are high in climates where temperatures drop to around 32 degrees Fahrenheit. They spray a consistent, uniform layer of water that freezes and crystallizes over plants. The freezing process releases about 80 calories of heat for every 0.03 ounce of water that freezes. The ice encases the plant and partially isolates it from the harsh temperatures.

Plus, sprinklers are more economical than heaters, with some sprinklers generating 2.5 million kilocalories of heat per hectare per hour with only 5 kilowatts of electric power.


Learn More

Part 4: Do You Have the Time for It?: Comparing Management Needs & Cost

Part 5: Affordability and Profits: Investing in Drip and Sprinklers

Originally published in Growing Magazine’s July 2014 issue.

mini-Wobblers irrigating cabbage

Dispelling the Myths

Irrigation efficiency is about more than just pumping the smallest possible amount of water. A system’s efficiency is determined by its performance and distribution uniformity, along with the crop’s response to irrigation.

Efficiency is the reason many growers have become big fans of drip. Drip systems irrigate with flow rates around 0.5 to 2 gallons per hour and normally operate at pressures ranging from 10 to 30 psi. Drip puts water directly over or near the roots, so well-designed systems can boast distribution uniformity of 90 to 95 percent.

However, sprinkler systems can be almost as water and energy-efficient as drip systems.

Most fruit and vegetable growers are familiar with impact sprinklers. Compared to drip systems, these sprinklers normally require higher flows and pressures to operate, and wind easily affects their spray patterns. They also offer less uniformity. This makes drip an obvious choice for anyone looking to save on water and energy costs.

In reality, sprinkler systems use anywhere from 0.5 to 20 gallons of water per minute. Moreover, they only need 10 to 30 psi to operate, depending on the model selected. Well-designed systems with models made for wind and evaporation resistance can also irrigate with 90 to 95 percent uniformity.

A side-by-side comparison of water use, energy use and distribution uniformity for drip and overhead irrigation would reveal that both systems are very efficient. Drip narrowly beats overhead systems in water savings when you take into consideration the amount of time each system has to operate.

That slight increase in water savings makes the switch to drip seem logical enough. However, a closer analysis shows that despite the benefits of drip irrigation, these systems often come with hefty equipment costs and limited applications.

As R.L. Tinsley, Inma Irrigation Water Management, & Soil Reclamation Specialist, puts it: “Drip is perhaps the most heavily promoted form of irrigation, particularly by those who do not have to pay for it, operate it, or maintain it.”

Learn More

Part 3: Comparing System Versatility: from Germination to Frost Protection

Part 4: Do You Have the Time for It?: Comparing Management Needs & Cost

Part 5: Affordability and Profits: Investing in Drip and Sprinklers

Drip vs Overhead Irrigation

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New sprinklers like the Xcel-Wobbler only use around 0.5 to 20 gallons of water per minute and 10 to 30 psi to operate.

Originally published in Growing Magazine’s July 2014 issue.

Is overhead irrigation a system of the past? We certainly don’t think so!

Drip irrigation systems may be highly efficient in water use, but new overhead sprinklers are almost as water and energy efficient.

Most people have strong opinions about drip and overhead irrigation systems. Ask a group of growers about it and you will probably hear widely different opinions. Some say that sprinklers could never be as efficient as drip. Other say that drip is incredibly expensive or that it is only good for some fields and crops.

In reality, both overhead and drip are extremely efficient irrigation systems. Choosing one over the other boils down to priorities and farm management practices.

In recent years, drip irrigation systems have gotten a strong fan base due to their low flow rates and ability to save water. Strong advocates like the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association’s claim that a correctly installed drip system can use 50 to 80% less water compared to sprinklers. This makes it a very attractive option for growers in water-restricted locations or for growers who simply want to go green.

To its benefit, drip irrigation does indeed save water and energy. Still, growers looking for versatility, lower overhead costs and high yields large enough to feed a growing population may be better off sticking with overhead irrigation.

Part 2: Dispelling the Myths

Part 3: Comparing System Versatility: from Germination to Frost Protection

Part 4: Do You Have the Time for It?: Comparing Management Needs & Cost

Part 5: Affordability and Profits: Investing in Drip and Sprinklers

Overhead irrigation is a versatile and efficient system. A comparison of its benefits and disadvantages should help any grower quickly realize where their priorities lie:


  • Visible confirmation of system uniformity
  • Larger area of coverage
  • Long product life (often over 10 years)
  • Used for germination, fertigation, chemigation and frost control
  • Short irrigation intervals
  • Lower maintenance costs


  • Higher potential for evaporation and wind drift issues compared to drip
  • Waters both crops and weeds
  • Cannot be used on crops susceptible to foliar diseases
  • Higher potential for runoff and erosion compared to drip


For Western Europe and Northwest Africa

Ignacio Robredo, Senninger’s Regional Manager for Western Europe and Northwest AfricaSenninger is pleased to announce the recent hire of Ignacio Robredo, who joins the company as Senninger’s Regional Manager for Western Europe and Northwest Africa.

Ignacio is an agricultural engineer from the Polytechnic University of Madrid. He comes to Senninger with more than 12 years of experience in agricultural irrigation and experience in the animal production sector. Throughout his career, he has been responsible for the design and installation of complete pivot, solid set, and drip projects. He was also involved in the design and implementation of pumping stations, piping networks, power supply and accessories for irrigation systems in Europe, Middle East and Africa.

Ignacio can be reached for sales inquiries and technical support via email: Ignacio.Robredo@senninger.com, Skype: ig.robredo, or phone: (34) 682-126-132.

He resides in Spain and is fluent in English and Spanish. He has already begun travels to meet with existing Senninger’s customers and will be meeting with many new customers in the region.


Senninger's Micro-Sprinklers make installation easier and offer better options for efficient irrigation in nurseries, greenhouses and under-tree installationsSenninger is pleased to announce the release of the new upright and inverted Micro-Sprinklers, designed to make installation easier and offer better options for efficient irrigation in nurseries, greenhouses and under-tree installations. They are available with 5 different flow options to meet various crop needs. Senninger’s micro-sprinklers provide exceptional uniformity and distribution at low pressures.

The upright model is ideal for irrigating nurseries, orchards, vineyards, vegetables and citrus crops. The inverted model is ideal for overhead irrigation in greenhouses, shade houses and hoop houses.

The bridgeless design of Senninger’s micro-sprinklers eliminates dry spots caused by leg shadows. The deflector is designed for maximized startability and smooth operation. With three different base connections, the product’s design makes installation and retrofitting easier. It also allows for convenient disassembly for nozzle cleaning.

Senninger’s Micro-Sprinklers are constructed out of engineering-grade UV-resistant thermoplastic, which translates to reliability and durability. They come with two-year warranty on materials, workmanship and performance.


It’s all about the soil

The i-Wob, a leading sprinkler due to to its loa application intensity, unmatched uniformity, and large area of coverage at low pressures The outstanding distribution uniformity of wobbler technology is one the reasons that the i-Wob is the most imitated sprinkler of the irrigation industry. The off-center rotary action of a grooved deflector combines with the wobbling action to create consistently-sized droplets. Unlike stream-driven sprinklers, the i-Wob instantaneously covers a 360° area.

Droplet Size
The i-Wob is available with 4 different deflectors to select the droplet size that better matches the soil’s characteristics to get better infiltration and maintain good soil structure. Ideally, droplets should be large enough to combat the effects of strong winds, but not so large as to disrupt the soil.

Application Intensity
While larger droplets resist wind-drift and evaporation loss, their higher kinetic energy can lead to surface sealing and erosion on tighter soils. Smaller droplets are suitable for tighter soils while looser soils benefit from larger droplets.
Because the i-Wob applies water instantaneously over a larger area, it distributes droplets with a lower application intensity. This helps preserve the soil structure and infiltration capabilities.

Application Rate
While the application rate can be adjusted to the specific crop and growth stage, considering only crop needs could result in lesser yields. The application rate of a sprinkler must match the infiltration rate of the soil to prevent runoff, and over- or under-watered areas within the field.
In addition, double goosenecks and truss rod hose slings are perfect for dividing the flow from each outlet in half for two sprinklers in either side of the mainline. This spreads the flow over an even larger application area which helps increase soak time.

i-Wob’s four deflector models

i-Wob_grey i-Wob_black i-Wob_blue i-Wob_white
SA6: Standard-Angle
small droplets
SA9: Standard-Angle
medium droplets
LA9: Low-Angle
medium droplets
LA6: Low-Angle
large droplets


Senninger has led the way in the development of many solutions for the agricultural irrigation industryFor 54 years, Senninger has led the way in the development of many solutions for the agricultural irrigation industry, helping growers meet the food and fiber needs of a growing population worldwide.  It all began when Joe Senninger created the industry’s first Insect-Proof™ Impact Sprinkler to solve a common problem for growers in Central Florida. Soon after, Joe’s nephews, Andy and Mark Healy, joined the company bringing their marketing and engineering backgrounds.

Since those early days, Senninger pioneered products and concepts that became industry standards. In 1966, Senninger introduced the irrigation industry’s first in-line pressure regulator. This innovation launched a valuable line of products that have met different installation and customer needs, and have helped irrigators save water and energy. In its continual pursuit of irrigation innovations, Senninger also introduced:

  • Color-coded nozzles, backed by a five-year warranty against orifice wear (1970)
  • First plastic sprinkler heads on center pivots (1971)
  • Six degree “Wind Fighter” center pivot sprinkler (1974)
  • The Wobbler (1978), which provides the most uniform water application pattern
  • The Super Spray (1981). The industry’s most versatile spray nozzle. Its interchangeable parts and customizable pattern and droplet size helped make it one of the world’s most popular spray nozzles
  • The Drag Hose Adapter (1982) in response to low water availability in West Texas with the first drag hose adapter for spray nozzles
  • A four-mode LEPA (Low Energy Precision Application) Quad Spray in 1986. LEPA technology has now evolved into one of the most water and energy-efficient irrigation methods ‒ Close Spacing
  • The “T-Spray” (1994)
  • The integral weight (1999)
  • Plastic Gooseneck and Truss Rod Hose Slings (2002)
  • Pivot Boom System (2006)UP3 Easy Clean Nozzle (2008)

Senninger celebrates its 54th anniversary loyal to its values and cultureWhile Senninger is recognized for their innovations and contributions to the irrigation industry, their employees know that the company success is built upon core values kept throughout the years. Honesty, Trust, Loyalty, Respect, and Teamwork, and the dedication of team members, are the real foundation of Senninger’s achievements. March 24, Senninger celebrates its 54th anniversary loyal to those values and culture, to continue to produce innovative products and develop more efficient irrigation practices.



Senninger interactive pivot products catalog Senninger is proud to announce the launch of the new interactive pivot products catalog for PC and mobile devices. This newest version has information on product features, benefits, and installations, with the aid of application photos and videos.
The Senninger interactive pivot products catalog expands on current Senninger literature (brochures and catalogs) to help dealers show growers which Senninger irrigation product is better for their fields, and what solutions they can implement to address various irrigation issues.
It also gives the convenient option to select the measurement system (U.S or Metric) for flows, nozzle sizes, pressures and other useful data.
The desktop and mobile versions of Senninger new interactive pivot products catalog, and the Catalog User Guide, can be downloaded from Senninger website. Once downloaded, this self-contained and easy-to-navigate resource does not require internet connection for ready access anywhere ‒ in the office, the field, or at home. Click here to access our Software and Tools webpage and download the new interactive pivot catalog.

  • Drip vs Overhead Irrigation (Part 5) Originally published in Growing Magazine’s July 2014 issue. Minimal investments for a strong ROI For large-scale commercial growers, overhead irrigation is more economically feasible. Drip systems typically cost $500 to $1,200 or more ... Learn more »
  • Drip vs Overhead Irrigation (Part 4) Originally published in Growing Magazine’s July 2014 issue. Less Complicated Farm Management at a Lower Cost After switching to drip irrigation, growers initially use less water, save money and get similar yields ... Learn more »

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