Drip trickle irrigation is the most water-saving modern precision irrigation technology for agriculture, which has advantages such as water saving, energy saving, high level of automation, increased crop yield, and time saving. It can effectively alleviate the water shortage for agriculture in arid and semi-arid areas.
The dripper heads are the core component of the drip trickle irrigation system. Their functions are to distribute water uniformly and steadily into the soil through a complex and narrow channel structure that dissipates the water pressure. However, surface water with high turbidity can easily cause clogging of the drip trickle irrigation system, which in turn affects the irrigation efficiency and limits the promotion and use of drip trickle irrigation technology.
The performance of the dripper heads, as the crucial component of the drip trickle irrigation system, directly reflect the service life, water-saving efficiency, and irrigation uniformity of the entire system.
The clogging problem of the channel has been a major bottleneck that restricts the development of drip trickle irrigation technology. With the rapid development of technologies such as recycled water drip trickle irrigation, slightly brackish water drip trickle irrigation, and rainwater drip trickle irrigation, the clogging resistance of the drip trickle irrigation system has been given much higher attention, and the clogging problem has become a hot topic in drip trickle irrigation research.
Currently, China faces a grim situation in terms of water scarcity and water pollution, which has led to diversified sources of irrigation water, including river water, recycled water, slightly brackish water, surface water, and groundwater, all of which are important sources for drip trickle irrigation. Research shows that irrigation water quality is the most critical factor inducing dripping emitter clogging, with salt ions, suspended solids, microorganisms, and organic matters in drip trickle irrigation water sources easily leading to a series of micro-dynamic processes in the channel structure of the drip trickle irrigation system, generating complex clogging materials that adhere to and deposit inside the dripper channel, thereby reducing its flow rate and irrigation uniformity, and ultimately affecting the economic benefits of drip trickle irrigation. Different water quality characteristics of the water sources will lead to differences in clogging processes or mechanisms in the dripper.
Fertilization drip trickle irrigation carries the risk of inducing or accelerating drip emitter clogging in the absence or with only a small amount of suspended solids.
The risk of different fertilizer characteristics inducing drip emitter clogging varies. When the fertilizer quality fraction is less than 2.0%, the risk of drip emitter clogging from high to low is: phosphorus fertilizer, urea, potassium fertilizer, and compound fertilizer. When the fertilizer quality fraction is greater than or equal to 3.0%, the highest risk of inducing drip emitter clogging is from urea, followed by phosphorus fertilizer, with lower risks from potassium fertilizer and compound fertilizer.
Different fertilizer types induce the formation of different substances that block drippers through various mechanisms. For urea drip trickle irrigation, the mechanism mainly comes from the particle matter induced by changes in fertilizer molecule flow properties and sediment deposition on the wall surface inside the channel. For soluble phosphate fertilizer drip trickle irrigation, the mechanism mainly considers the agglomeration and precipitation blocking of fertilizer impurities under phosphate adsorption behavior. For potassium sulfate drip trickle irrigation, the mechanism mainly considers the increase of the channel wall roughness induced by calcium and magnesium precipitation, causing a decrease in the flow section and subsequent blocking. The mechanism of inducing clogging by soluble compound fertilizer needs further study.
The structure of the dripper affects the inducing clogging of fertilization, and there is an interactive effect between the channel structure size and the channel structure type.