Effective Irrigation Cleaning

When we talk about irrigation cleaning, we’re talking about more than simply running a disinfectant through your system. When using high performance plant nutrition, it’s important that we’re actually removing sources of disease, microorganism buildup and physical barriers to ensure these nutrients are able to perform at their best. When you allow clogs to build up in your system, you’re losing the ability to effectively manage your irrigation practices. Clogged lines can contribute to reduced feeding and watering, pipe corrosion, and the harbouring of pathogens, among other nuisances.

Clogs can come in three forms:

    Physical – suspended soil, organic debris
    Chemical – incompatible precipitates, iron from water source
    Biological – biofilm, algae

Identifying clogs and their sources can make a big difference in how they are treated and prevented.

First, let’s breakdown the treatment terms:

    Cleaning – physically removing foreign material, organic matter, and microorganisms.
    Sanitizing – lowering the amount of microorganisms on surfaces to a safe level through cleaning or disinfecting.
    Disinfecting – killing or inactivation of microorganisms. Does not necessarily inactivate bacterial spores.

Treating physical and chemical clogs are straightforward and effectively resolved using cleaning methods such as pressure cleaning or with chemical treatments.

Treating biological build-up, like biofilm, is a thorough process that requires persistence and the right tools. Nutrient rich environments, such as irrigation systems using Plant-Prod nutrients, are most conducive to biofilm. Biofilm will generally consists of layers of bacteria or algae, whatever microorganisms have been or are currently in your facility, plus whatever may be in your water supply. Any organic matter previously introduced into the system, including organic liquid fertilizer, will also contribute to biofilm.

Disinfectant products alone will have little impact is had on the biofilm’s surface and entire structure. It’s essential to effectively clean irrigation surfaces prior to disinfecting. Treatment methods that are most effective on biofilm include continuous ozone or chlorine dioxide treatments, mixed oxidative solutions, and shot treatments with forms of acid (such as Strip-It).

What does not work for biofilm cleaning – UV, chlorine, hydrogen peroxide, high velocity line flushing, or copper ionization.

For more information on an effective irrigation sanitation program, visit Pace Chemicals.

For answers to all your biofilm questions, see Dramm’s Biofilm in the Greenhouse white paper.