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How to select drip tape


To select the right Drip Tape for your farm you need to decide on an emitter flow rate, an emitter spacing, a wall thickness and a tape diameter. There are several options for each of these parameters resulting in a huge number of combinations to choose from that can be bewildering to the first time tape user. In the table below we summarize all of these parameters in one place, and the main drivers that should influence your selection.

A few words about application rate

When selecting your drip tape flow rate, you should ultimately be concerned with the application rate, in inches-per-hour, of your system. The application rate of your system is determined by your emitter flow rate, emitter spacing and average spacing between your drip tape laterals. If you know your application rate, and you know the Evapotranspiration Rate of your crop (inches of water consumed by your crop each day), you know how long you need to run your system to meet your crop's needs. Specifically,



In this equation, AR is application rate in inches per hour, Emitter Flow Rate is in GPH per hour and Emitter Spacing and Lateral Spacing are both in inches. Lateral Spacing is the average spacing between laterals if you don't have uniformly spaced laterals. For example, if you have 3 laterals per bed and your beds are on 9-foot centers, then your Lateral Spacing is 36". 

As an example, if you are using a .25 GPH emitter, a 12" emitter spacing and a 48" spacing between laterals, your application rate from the equation above is 0.1 in/hour. If you are irrigating mature corn in a warm environment with an evaportranspiration rate of .3 in/day, you need to run your system 3 hours per day (or 6 hours every other day) to meet your crop's water needs.

A few words about filtration

All drip and micro irrigation devices require filtration to avoid emitter clogging. This is especially true with drip tape which has exceptionally low emitter flow rates. If you are using well or municipal water that is relatively clean and only contains inorganic contaminates such as sand or well casing, a Plastic Screen Filter (small systems) or Metal Screen Filter (large systems) can be the right choice. If you are using surface water that contains organic contaminants such as algae or bacteria, or if you are delivering fertilizers through your system (especially organic fertilizers), you should use a Sand Media Filter. Even when using a sand media filter it can be a good idea to use a smaller screen filter downstream as a backup.



Typical Values

Effect on Performance



  • large diameters allow longer lateral runs
  • up to ½ mile runs are possible with large diameters


  • Standard drip tape is 5/8” diameter. Larger diameter drip tape products allow longer lateral runs, but are more costly.

Wall thickness

  • 5, 6, 8, 10 and 15 mil
  • 1 mil = .001” (one one-thousandth of an inch)
  • thicker walls improve resistance to damage from pests and/or installation
  • thicker walls allow higher operating and flushing pressures
  • thicker walls allow multi-year installations 
  • we recommend 8 mil single-season for beginners 
  • Thicker drip tape is more costly and is usually used where the field is rough, for sub-surface or long-term placement, or where pests are present that can damage tape. Thin wall tape is used as a single season "disposable" product.  


Emitter spacing



    • 6”, 8”, 12” and 24”
    • Other spacings available for special applications


    • closer emitter spacings result in higher flow rates per unit length
    • closer emitter spacings are sometimes required for seed germination
    • closer emitter spacings can provide a better wetting pattern in some light soils
    • larger emitter spacings can deliver low application rates without increasing the risk of plugging


    • Choice of spacing is based on planting method (germinating or transplanting), plant spacing, soil texture, and crop selection.

    Emitter flow rate

    • .17 (low flow), .25 (standard) and .33 (high flow) GPH per emitter
    • higher flow rates result in more lateral movement of water in sandy soils
    • higher flow rates reduce the risk of emitter plugging
    • lower flow rates allow longer lateral runs
    • lower flow rates allow improved infiltration of water in heavy soils


    • Choice of flow rate depends on water availability, plant water requirements, row length, soil texture, and crop selection.
    • Some drip tape products specify flow rate in gpm per 100 ft. To convert from GPH per emitter to GPM per 100 ft, multiply by 100 and divide by emitter spacing.