Chemigation describes the distribution of irrigation water blended with fertilizers and pesticides on crops. Recently the practice of adding chlorine-based disinfectants has also been applied to sprinkler irrigation to ensure microbiologically safe water. The sprinkler systems widely used in farming today are similar to water distribution networks. Although there is a wealth of research on chemical constituents in drinking water distribution networks, there has been little research around irrigation systems. Researchers used water quality modeling of distribution networks as a starting point to develop a model to help effectively manage chemigation systems with the aim of improving crop production costs and minimizing adverse environmental effects. 

In “Modeling Solute Transport in Sprinkler Irrigation Laterals,” authors D. Zerihun, C. A. Sanchez, C. Rock, and C. Williams developed a lateral-wide solute transport model. The model can simulate the time- and distance-variation of the solute in an irrigation lateral, given the hydraulic condition, the solute input function imposed at the lateral inlet, and the initial solute concentration profile along the lateral. The researchers evaluated the model first by testing the soundness of the pipe-scale numerical solution, with further testing of the predictive capacity of the lateral solute transport model in the context of a real-world application. By comparing computed breakthrough curves with data obtained through measurements along a pair of irrigation laterals the researchers established that the model performed well. The full paper is available in the Journal of Irrigation and Drainage Engineering at The abstract is below.


The application of agricultural chemicals to crops in the form of aqueous solutions or emulsions blended with irrigation water (often referred to as chemigation) is widely practiced in modern farming systems. Optimal chemigation management can help reduce crop production costs and mitigate the environmental effects of agricultural chemicals. As a step toward the development of a field-scale sprinkler irrigation chemigation systems management model, a solute transport model that can simulate the time and distance evolution of the concentration of a nonreactive solute in an irrigation lateral is developed and evaluated in the study reported here. For modeling purposes, a lateral is conceptualized as a branched hydraulic network consisting of a series of connected pipes, each delimited by outlet nodes. At the pipe scale, solute transport is modeled as a one-dimensional advective process in which the applicable differential equation is solved with a quasi-Lagrangian integration scheme. Solutions to the transport problem, in a pair of consecutive pipes, are coupled through what is described here as the nodal condition, which can be stated as: the concentration computed at the downstream-end node of a pipe constitutes the upstream boundary condition for the advective transport problem in the pipe just downstream. The model was evaluated in two phases. First, the soundness of the formulation and programmatic implementation of the numerical solution to the pipe-scale advective transport problem was tested through comparison of model outputs with analytical solutions. Evaluation of the predictive capacity of the lateral-wide model, in the context of a real-world application, was then conducted by comparing computed breakthrough curves of a nonreactive tracer with data measured along a pair of laterals. The results suggest that model performance is satisfactory. 

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