Worth Farms contains some of the most productive farm ground in the state and people told Worth not to expect much of an advantage in converting from sprinklers and furrow to buried drip tape.

“When I first started looking at drip, people told me if you have good ground you would not see much yield increase. That is not true. It is also not true that you will not save water — you will,” Worth said.

“We have doubled our tomato yields and use one less acre foot of water. It far exceeded our expectations. Drip is a no-brainer.”

That is a goal for the 60-inch cotton. While they have not achieved quite as dramatic a payback, Herrin said they have saved costs by using the same tillage equipment on tomatoes and cotton and drip will save water on just about any row crop.

“You do not necessarily save water with drip on trees, but you definitely do on row crops,” Worth said.

“We do not pre-irrigate the 60-inch cotton on tomato beds and that is a water savings. We plant to moisture from the drip tape; cap and then de-cap it and we can get a stand.” With twin 30-inch cotton, they have to pre-irrigate with sprinklers to plant to moisture.

Worth planted all his cotton to rainfall moisture this rare, above normal rainfall year, but he also had to replant some cotton due to stand loss from the cool spring.

The nice thing about being able to plant either 60-inch cotton or twin 30s on a bed, Worth said, is an easy replant. “If the twin 30s fail on the bed, all you have to do is seed a single 60 and vice versa. We did that this year.”

The precision of drip irrigation is also paying off through in-season water savings. Munk’s trial last year also determined that there was no yield difference between cotton irrigation based on 100 percent evapotranspiration and 80 percent evapotranspiration. That represents a huge water saving factor for growers in Westlands Water District like Worth Farms, which loses federal water allocations annually.

Worth Farms’ drip system is buried 12 inches, all on 60-inch centers. It is designed to deliver .05 inches of water per hour. During the height of the irrigation it runs virtually 24 hours per day.

While drip is very efficient, it is not foolproof. Worth explains that with other irrigation systems, dry soil spots are evident. There are no wet spots with drip, so a grower must monitor the drip system to make sure it is working. “The only way you can tell in the field if the system is not working is when the plants start showing stress. By then it may be too late to recover.”