How do I determine how long and how often to irrigate with a drip irrigation system?

Answer: Soil texture and available water-holding capacity determine the rate at which water moves through the soil and, therefore, how long to run a drip system per application. The following steps will help you determine your needs. 1. Determine your water-holding capacity. For clay loam and silty clay loam, the water-holding capacity is .14-.212. Determine the tubing flow rate (GPM per 100 ft). This varies with the type of drip tape. An average drip flow rate is 0.45 GPM per 100 ft. You can get flow information on your specific tape by contacting the manufacturer or distributor.3. Then, using the table from Pennsylvania State University Extension publication referenced below and the drip tube flow rate, find the maximum time in minutes to run the drip system at one time.For our example, the available water-holding capacity is 0.17 inch of water/inch depth of soil. Using the table provide in the referenced publication, the drip system would be run for 157 minutes for each irrigation event, typically in a 24-hour period, to avoid leaching and runoff. Repeat events until the system has run for 5.8 hours in a week to apply 1 inch of water. So, you would need to water more at each time and less frequently.The opposite is true of sandy soils where you water more frequently and for less time. This example configuration is suggesting watering for 2.5 hours two to three times per week. Resources:Determining How Long to Run Drip Irrigation for Vegetable CropsPennsylvania State University Extension Irrigation for Vegetable ProductionPennsylvania State University Extension more information, check out ATTRA’s Livestock and Pasture section at The resources offered here deal with sustainable livestock production literally from the ground up. Pasture management, feeds and forages are covered by several publications and videos, while others address care and management for specific animals and marketing of the products derived from them. Whether you’re an experienced or a beginning producer, you can find useful information relating to traditional livestock such as beef and dairy cattle, sheep, hogs and poultry, as well as introductions to alternative livestock options from bees to bison.