The ROI of SDI

November 1, 2014

By Kyle Schneider

I vividly remember my introduction to the concept of subsurface irrigation. During the 2007 summer break I worked for a farmer in Scottsbluff, NE. It was a dry spring and his edible beans did not have enough moisture to germinate. As we walked rows in early June, throwing out corn stalks to allow water to flow down each row, he said to me: “You know, there is a tube you bury in the ground, to irrigate. Eventually I will have some.”

What an idea! The notion of applying irrigation water underground was incredibly intriguing. I grew up on a farm in western Nebraska, which allowed me to immediately appreciate the benefits offered by a buried irrigation system. During my last year of college I started reading everything the internet had to offer on subsurface drip irrigation (SDI), which lead me to Eco-Drip Irrigation.

After graduating from UNL, I was hired by Eco-Drip to work at its Hastings, NE branch. I have sold, installed, serviced, and helped design subsurface drip irrigation systems for three years. I have come to realize drip irrigation offers more to production agriculture than the obvious water savings. Increased fertilizer efficiency, a decrease in labor input, yield gains, and the ability to irrigate every acre of a farm make drip irrigation an attractive option.

I have now moved back to western Nebraska where I work primarily from 21st Century Water Technologies’ main office in Scottsbluff, NE as their in-house Eco-Drip representative. Since signing as an exclusive Eco-Drip dealer this spring, 21st Century Water Technologies has sold and installed six SDI projects in the Nebraska Panhandle. Harvest of the first crops produced with the new installations has begun, and the results are exciting. Corn yields of 220-260 bushels per acre, with as little as TEN inches of irrigation water applied.

This summer, a grower in the Hay Springs area produced 117 bushel wheat with his drip system. It is not uncommon to produce over 60 bushel dry edible beans when using drip irrigation. I once had a customer tell me, “I quit telling people what I could produce on my drip system because they simply do not believe me.”

When properly managed, drip irrigation can truly provide a leap forward in efficiency and production. Drip irrigation will not only improve the water application efficiency and distribution uniformity; it can be used to apply nutrients directly to the root zone – multiple times per year.

How much less nitrogen would you need to purchase if zero units were leached from the root zone or lost into the air? How many times have you heard or said “Good help is so hard to find”? An SDI system engineered by Eco-Drip will capture every acre of your farm and be easy to operate, which decreases labor inputs. When all of these things are considered, Eco-Drip from 21st Century Water Technologies is an attractive option, yes, even at $3 corn.

Subsurface drip irrigation has been used to irrigate commodity crops far longer than I have known of its existence. In fact, Eco-Drip installed systems 30 years ago, which are still in use today. It’s true that a drip irrigation system is a sizable investment. In order to receive the best return on that investment, it is important to purchase a drip system designed to deliver results for years to come, from a company committed to its customers’ success.

To discover if drip irrigation is a viable option for your operation, contact 21st Century Water Technologies, or go to to start your research.