ITS Boom Irrigation System By Neda Simeonova

Looking for an irrigation system for your greenhouserequires finding a system that is cost effective, easy to use and right foryou. The ITS Boom Irrigation System from Solaris, a division of McConkey Co.,Sumner, Wash., offers the versatility growers need. This system is highlyautomated, has uniform application and a free maintenance track record.

Features and Benefits

According to the manufacturers, the system has a single- anddouble-rail track option. The boom’s automated transfer system is engineered totransfer the ITS irrigator inside or outside gutter connected ranges, and thetwo rail irrigators can be transferred from bay to bay along inside end walls,center aisles or gutter connected ranges. A transfer between quonsets is alsoavailable.

Efficiency

The boom system is highly automated, which makes theirrigation process very efficient. Jim Finch, greenhouse manager of WashingtonBulb, Mt. Vernon, Wash., said they use 12 systems for their 15-acre production.”We were doing everything by hand before we purchased the boom systems in2001,” Finch said. “Because of the type of business we do, ourgreenhouse changes daily, and this systems gives us the flexibility to programdaily, semi-weekly or whatever it takes to meet the water needs of thatenvironment.”

According to Finch, they have seen a great reduction inirrigation labor and fertilizer usage and their production has become moreefficient. “Automatic irrigation helps improve the quality of the crop.When you take the human factor out of irrigation and you have consistency withthe machine, you have consistency in your crop,” Finch explained.”Unlike watering by hand, with this machine we can put specific amounts ofwater in certain areas according to varieties and locations within thathouse.”

Uniformity

The boom system’s adjustable nozzles, which can be adjustedfrom a fine mist to a course one, give growers the flexibility to irrigateseedling plugs and unrooted cuttings as well.

Sportel Greenhouse, Kalamazoo, Mich., acquired its firstirrigation systems about nine years ago, and according to owner Ron Sportel,they have been very reliable. “Most of my booms are in the propagationareas, either in our plug or cutting range,” Sportel said. He finds theadjustable nozzles very useful for this type of production and believes thethree different-size nozzles give growers the option to start with fine mist,and as the crop progresses, to use the bigger nozzles. “Because the boomhas a softer mister, it doesn’t blow the plants out, and there is less lossthat can be attributed to overwatering,” Sportel explained. “When youdon’t have as many misses, you don’t have as much patching to do. So when itcomes time to ship, you’ve got a better product and less time inshipping.”

Maneuverability

The boom’s hoses are kept out of the way with a Center Feedor End Feed system, according to the manufacturers.

Center Feed. This system allows the hose to lay flatalongside either a single- or double-rail track, and it is held by trackrollers.

End Feed. This system coils in loops suspended below thetrack from trolleys that are pulled along the track by the irrigator. This isideal for greenhouses with enough vertical space for hanging hoses. Water isfed to the boom from its source at the end of the bay. Both systems keep hosesout of the way and help them last longer.

“All of my booms have carts on them,” Sportelsaid. “This is very important because the locations where we have them hasbenches, and you can’t have hoses hanging down. It also helps us move ourproduct around without having hoses in the way.”

Maintenance

John Dehaan, president of Westview Nursery, Grandville,Mich., had his first booms installed in 1985, and they haven’t had manyproblems. “We have upgraded them over the years, and we’ve had to replacea power supply, but the first one we put in is still using the originalboard.”

However, according to Dehaan, it is very important to keepthe nozzles clean to maintain the uniformity of application. “They willclog up every once in a while, but you just have to take them off seasonallyand get them cleaned,” Dehaan explained. “The uniformity reallydepends on nozzles working properly.”

Final thoughts

Cost is certainly important when investing in an irrigationsystem or any greenhouse automation; however, according to these growers, aproduction’s size is not necessarily a critical factor. “We need to be asefficient as possible internally to be successful,” Sportel said.”And I think that this system could be one of many things that can be doneto make us more efficient, do a better job and be more competitive.”

Neda Simeonova

Neda Simeonova is associate editor for GPN. She can be reached by phone at (847) 391-1013 or E-mail at nsimeonova@sgcmail.com.



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