While the use and re-use of drip tape is a common for growers with drip irrigation systems, the idea of single-use drip tape isn’t. Most growers view drip tape as an investment and are known to re-use it at least a few seasons, some even stretching its use up to seven or eight times. However, this common practice comes with drawbacks, making the new concept of single-use drip tape both interesting and appealing.
The idea of single-use drip tape is exactly what the name implies – using drip tape for just one season, then removing and recycling it rather than storing and re-using it. RDO Water is leading the way in making this concept viable for growers through its drip tape installation, retrieval, and recycling service.
Using specially-designed equipment, the team lifts and removes, then binds up, hauls away, and recycles the tape at the end of the season, taking this time and labor-consuming process off growers, while eliminating additional issues of re-using drip tape such as water waste, storage concerns, and food safety issues.
Here are 10 reasons single-use drip tape is a strategy worth considering for California growers.
1. Initial Cost
Even in recent years, the cost of drip tape has given growers reason to re-use it for multiple seasons. However, some manufacturers, like Netafim, are introducing drip tape designed for single use – at a price that makes it a feasible option.
2. Labor Savings
From frequent, ongoing checking and repair of drip tape throughout a season to the lifting, removal, and storage process at the end of season, the cycle of re-using drip tape demands a great deal of manual labor. There’s also the biggest labor-savings potential in eliminating drip tape welding at season’s end – a time-intensive process that includes cutting out damaged spots and plastic welding the tape back together.
Throughout the country, and especially in California, labor is the biggest challenge for growers. Single-use drip tape and the RDO Water retrieval service offered along with it eliminates a large chunk of labor requirements on a farm.
3. Worker Optimization
The idea of eliminating timely manual tasks on a farm might sound good to growers, yet scary to those who depend on these jobs and are still interested in working in the fields. Rather than a single-use drip tape strategy costing existing workers their jobs, they can instead be re-assigned to tasks that deliver more bottom-line benefits to the operation – and perhaps greater job satisfaction.
4. Water Savings
Re-used drip tape, even the best cared-for and highest-quality, is bound to have a bit of wear and tear after being removed for the season. Cracks and cuts in the drip tape lead to leaks, which waste water. Using fresh, high-quality drip tape each season ensures leak-free operation and maximum water use efficiency.
5. Repair Costs
Closely related to water waste issues that come from damaged drip tape is the cost to repair. It’s not uncommon for there to be a handful or up to two dozen leaks per acre of drip tape, making these repair costs add up quickly, not to mention the time spent – another concern that single-use drip tape removes from growers’ minds.
6. Storage Space
Drip tape must be properly stored before it can go back into the field. Depending on the size of their operation and how much tape they use, growers potentially need to allocate a large amount of space to store, as well as ensure that space is clean, and free of rodents or other pests. Growers without ample space don’t have to worry about where they’re going to store drip tape, while those who do have space will find it freed up for more efficient storage of equipment and other supplies.
7. Food Safety
Speaking of cleanliness, reusing drip tape puts a grower at risk for food safety violations due to contaminated drip tape. Pathogens can be transported to other field locations, too when tape is reused. Single-use eliminates the potential spread of soil-borne pathogens.
8. Tape Recycling
When drip tape finally reaches the end of its re-use life, it’s important growers properly dispose of it. While not required by state laws, drip tape recycling is encouraged and most growers want to recycle as part of their efforts to be ethically-responsible. But the requirements growers must meet to recycle drip tape are strict, and many don’t have the time or manpower to meet them.
Growers who employ a single-use drip tape approach, along with RDO Water’s drip tape retrieval service, which includes hauling away and recycling the material, receive the added peace of mind knowing their tape is being properly recycled at the end of each growing season.
9. All Crops
As the biggest agriculture economy in the country, California is home to numerous crops, from lettuce and broccoli, to berries and citrus fruits. Any type of crop that’s drip irrigated is compatible with single-use drip tape, opening the opportunity to all growers with drip irrigation systems.
10. Crop Rotation
A final, key advantage of single-use drip tape is for growers who frequently rotate crops. Certain crops may require different size drip tape, as well as emitters and spacing than others, which can be an issue when re-using drip tape in the same field. Single-use drip tape offers a fresh start at every growing season – and with every new crop rotation – to select the right combination that will best accommodate the crop and maximize yield potential.
Taking advantage of single-use drip tape and the drip tape retrieval service from RDO Water is cost-effective and puts less hassle on growers. The combination also combats the labor pinch in numerous ways, from time saved during installation and retrieval, as well as initial pre-season and ongoing in-season monitoring and repair of reused drip tape.
About the Author
Dan Rodriguez is General Manager with RDO Water in Salinas, CA.
Interested in converting to a drip irrigation system? Read this article and find out what you need to ask your drip irrigation designer.
To learn more about RDO Water’s exclusive drip tape retrieval service, contact your local RDO Water store.