by Stuart Spaulding —
CLIA Certified Landscape Irrigation Auditor Training & Communications Manager at DIG Corp.


Preventing Emitter Clogging due to Root Intrusion on Sub-Surface Dripline Systems

Dripline manufacturers have developed a variety of methods of dealing with the problem of root intrusion into dripline emitters and tubing, which can be a problem in sub-surface dripline irrigation systems (in turf areas) over time.

Some of these manufacturing techniques include impregnating the emitters material with herbicide, imbedding the emitters with a copper compound or copper oxide, or incorporating physical barriers of one type or another into the emitters.  Other producers who may not use these manufacturing processes recommend injecting an herbicide periodically into the system to prevent root intrusion & subsequent damage to the emitters.

But the most overlooked method to combat root intrusion may be the most basic: the practice of appropriate irrigation scheduling.  Regardless of what type of dripline is installed, it is essential to irrigate on a regular, sometimes frequent schedule, so that the soil around every emitter does not dry out.  If the soil around the emitters becomes too dry, the roots could seek out and find the water source, penetrate the emitter, and plug it up or alter the flow rate.

Lighter sandier soils need to be irrigated more frequently than dense, heavy soils with a high clay content, so It’s wise to become aware of the soil type in the irrigated area.   A good soil probe is also a handy tool to use to measure the soil moisture at different depths.  And soil moisture sensors can be utilized and connected to the irrigation controller to ensure that the soil moisture level is maintained automatically at the optimum level.

If the controller watering schedule is customized to fit the soil type, climate zone, and plant type, the chance of root intrusion damage will be minimized, water savings maximized, and the lifespan of the dripline system extended for many years.