It’s no secret that agriculture is a significant part of what farmers do. And becoming versed in how to nurture crops is required if farms are to reach their full potential. But it isn’t enough to stick your parsnips in the ground and pray for rain. Raising your harvests in abundance involves equal parts art form and sophisticated science.

For this reason, it pays to have tools like plows and irrigation systems to help you with the heavy lifting. Explore primary types of irrigation systems you can use and discover how they’ll enhance the agricultural aspect of your farm.

Surface Irrigation Systems

Surface irrigation is perhaps the most prominent system used by farms, with 85 percent of the world’s agriculture benefitting from it. But why do so many farmers use it, and how does it work?

In essence, surface irrigation is the process by which water is applied to a field with the assistance of good old-fashioned gravity. Let’s take a closer look at the specifics of such a system.

How It Works

This irrigation method leverages gravity through canals and pipes to supply crop fields with the water they need to thrive. How much success you can expect to see with surface irrigation depends on the soil and crops you’re working with.

But typically, this system is most effective when used to water field crops and orchards. Surface irrigation also comes in many different forms. Thus, you can pick the one that works best for your crop type and size.

There are three major types of surface irrigation methods: furrow irrigation, basin irrigation, and border irrigation.

Furrow Irrigation

  • This method uses furrows to irrigate water throughout a field.
  • Furrow irrigation requires less technical knowledge to pull off than its counterparts (sprinkler and drip), so it’s a much better option for novices.
  • Furrow strategies also cost less, though regulation of water flow is challenging. This makes it a better choice for crops like corn, sorghum, and other crops harvested in rows.
  • Siphon tubes are often used to supply water to irrigation furrows from ditches.

Basin Irrigation

  • In this method, basins about the size of a tree are prepared and connected through irrigation channels. This system is most successful in orchards.
  • Once the basins are connected, water moves from basin to basin, irrigating each one as it moves.
  • Basin irrigation presents greater chances of contamination of pests and diseases from tree to tree due to how the water irrigates through the basins.

Border Irrigation

  • One of the oldest systems, border irrigation divides a sloped field into blocks with borders made from carefully shaped dirt.
  • Water flows between areas that split the sloping field into rectangles and hold all the water as it flows through the field, with free drainage at the end of each strip.
  • Because the border method requires so much water, it’s best for crop fields built on a slope with sandy or low storage soils.

Drip Irrigation Systems

Surface irrigation isn’t the only irrigation system you can use in agriculture. There’s also a method referred to as drip irrigation, and it’s pretty cool, too.

How It Works

This system trickles (or drips) water onto the soil or directly onto a crop’s root according to what the plants need to survive. Drip irrigation is particularly prominent in arid parts of the world, and it has four main components that make it work:

  1. Suction
  2. Control
  3. Discharge
  4. Regulation

These things work together with a water-lifting pump and a wealth of farm irrigation equipment—including several filters and a fertilizer mixing tank—to supply crops with the proper water pressure and drip needed to help them grow. Like surface irrigation, there are a few different categories of drip irrigation, including:

  • High-pressure drip irrigation: Functioning at an operating level of 30 or more PSI.
  • Low-pressure drip irrigation: Functioning at an operating level of less than 30 PSI.

Advantages of Drip Irrigation

Once set up, these systems function in a fairly straightforward matter, which is part of what makes them so advantageous. If you don’t believe us, you can refer to this hefty list of drip irrigation benefits:

  • Saves approximately 30 to 70 percent of the water other irrigation systems waste
  • Saves on labor costs and utilizes hilly terrain
  • Decreases issues with weed infiltration
  • In most cases, it increases plant vigor, growth, and overall yields
  • It makes fertilizer application much easier
  • It uses low-quality water while decreasing the chances of decontaminants
  • It is the most suitable for light soils that are often under-used

As you can see, drip irrigation is a fine choice for your agricultural duties, especially if you’re working in an arid climate with light soil and hilly terrain.

Sprinkler Irrigation Systems

Of course, we couldn’t let you leave without mentioning sprinkler irrigation systems. They are also a popular choice for agriculture. These systems probably look the most familiar to you.

After all, they closely resemble the devices most people use in their yards through spring and summer. But how exactly do sprinklers work in the context of a crop field?

How It Works

Obviously, the sprinkler systems you’d use on a farm are significantly larger than those used in a residential garden. But the concept is essentially the same as the ones you use to water your grass, flower beds, and anything else residing in your home’s outdoor areas. Sprinkler irrigation applies water to a crop field in a controlled manner that closely mimics natural rainfall.

This water is distributed through networks comprising:

  • Pumps
  • Valves
  • Pipes
  • Sprinklers

Depending on the size of your farm and crop fields, setting up a sprinkler system that provides full coverage can require serious machinery. These large-scale sprinkler systems typically use long hoses with sprinklers attached along the length of them.

They might also use a pivot system that makes complete, wide-ranging circles to provide adequate watering to crop fields. Either way, sprinkler irrigation sees widespread use on farms of all shapes and sizes.

The Benefits of Sprinkler Irrigation

Sprinkler irrigation methods—like their previously mentioned counterparts—also come with a host of advantages, including:

  • Suitability for nearly all field conditions (except for heavy clay soils)
  • Incredibly uniform water distribution coupled with high efficiency
  • Reduction in land loss, resulting in more area for cultivation
  • Minimum water loss and simple, accurate measurements of water distribution

Plus, sprinkler irrigation is incredibly feasible for smaller-scale farms, so it’s an option that everyone interested in agriculture can benefit from if they choose.

Final Thoughts

In short, various irrigation methods can benefit a host of agricultural pursuits. The method that will work best for you will depend on the size of your harvests, your soil types, and what your crops need to succeed. Hopefully, the information on these different watering methods will help you make the right choice for yourself.

Types of Irrigation Systems for Agriculture