As winter is just around the corner, it’s a good time to review basic irrigation methods you can use for frost protection for your crops. Since ice forms inside plant cells, you need to balance heat to prevent damage done to your product. Several methods of irrigation can be used to actively prevent such damage.

Frost protection methods

One of the most effective methods, if you can spare the large amount of water required, is over-crop sprinkling. Over-crop sprinkling is useful for different heights of growing crops and is useful for combating frost both by radiation and advection. This technique applies water directly to the surface of the plant, which releases heat, keeping the water an icy-water mix consistency. To maintain crops, a fast sprinkler and consistency of distributing the water are both vital. Keeping the temperature to above 0 degrees Celsius is also a must. This works because as water freezes, its latent heat is released, which keeps the temperature of the plant itself from dropping below freezing. So long as the freezing point of the plant tissue liquid is above the freezing point of the water, this technique can be maintained.

Likewise, using sprinklers inside the canopy of trees can be helpful for preventing limb damage. This technique creates an ice build up on the inner parts of the tree, which are sturdier than outer limbs. Conversely, applying water to the underside of the tree or crop canopy is also effective for taller crops.

Minding water usage

If water usage is a key factor to deciding your frost protection method, consider targeting. This technique applies water only to the canopy of the plant, by using one micro-sprinkler per plant. However, make sure to cover the majority of the total growing area, otherwise evaporation losses may be higher and allow for frost damage.

If you’re still water conscious, preheating the water applied is also an effective method. This allows for less water used, which in turn translates into a reduction of water-logged soil and leached nutrients and chemicals for your plants. This also gives you the option for changing the heat of the water as needed to match fluctuating temperatures caused by Mother Nature.

When selecting an irrigation plan for preventing frost this winter, keep in mind the following knowledge of your growing area: minimum temperatures for your growing area and expected duration of frost; specifications of potential inversions (heat rising to the air meters above the ground, lying on top of cold air closer to the ground), soil conditions, wind patterns, cloud cover patterns, plant temperatures, and knowing the general contours of your growing area.

Frost protection irrigation is critical not only for the winter–but also the spring, contrary to what you may expect. During the season when flowers are expected to bloom, if frost can still creep up on flowers before full bloom, this will also harm the ability to produce fruit. Also, keep in mind that ice coating blossoms is not enough to protect them. Rather, it is the continuous process of ice making that releases heat and provides protection.

Choosing wisely

For your frost protection needs, it helps to find the right equipment and design. KIM Engineering Solutions provides frost protection design as well as suitable equipment for enacting those plans. Contact us for getting started on a proactive approach to guarding your crops this winter!

While you’re at it, check out this great video on frost protection for your fruit: