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What Is Irrigation? Systems, Methods, and Importance of Irrigation

You can’t always rely on rainfall — sometimes you get too much, too little, or none at all. If we all relied on rainfall irrigation, the amount of food production would dwindle thanks to climate change and varying weather patterns.

This is why farmers worldwide are implementing more efficient water management practices such as irrigation systems. You see, every drop of water counts when you’re not sure if or when you'll receive the next rainfall.

As a farmer, the biggest concerns you have are your yield and profits. So what can you do to maximize these? You can start by implementing an irrigation management system to ensure that your crops are watered routinely.

A few improvements on your farm could do wonders for you.

This article seeks to explore irrigation methods, types of irrigation systems, and their importance in food production. 


Water is an essential resource for growth, whether it’s in animals or plants. In some areas, rainfall is more than sufficient to sustain the crop period, but in others, it’s not. This is why farmers tend to develop artificial ways to distribute the required amount of water to their crops.

However, there is a science to it because you don’t need to water your plants every 3–4 hours. The frequency, rate, and water use are dictated by irrigation scheduling.

Farmers typically use the following approaches to determine irrigation schedules: 

Plant Basis 

This is arguably the easiest to master, as you look at your crops to see if they’re exhibiting signs of water deficiency. If a plant is dead, dry, or has curled, rolled, or wilted leaves, these are signs that you are underwatering it.

The only issue is that you’re always guessing the amount of water needed to restore the plant to top shape. 

Soil Moisture Depletion 

Irrigation scheduling is determined by checking the amount of moisture content around the root zone. Different types of crops require certain moisture levels to thrive.

If the moisture content goes below the predetermined level, you’ll need to irrigate your crops.

For example, when dealing with corn at the 12-leaf pollination stage, you’ll need to schedule irrigation at 40–50% depletion. If you’ve planted beans on your land, you can schedule irrigation at 60–50% depletion during the auxiliary budding stage. 

Critical Stage 

Each crop has moisture-sensitive stages and non-moisture-sensitive stages. If your crops don’t receive water during the moisture-sensitive stages, it leads to irreversible damages and yield loss.

If you don’t have sufficient water for irrigation, you can skip some of the non-sensitive stages and hope you’ll have enough water flow for the moisture-sensitive stages. 

Types of Irrigation Systems

It’s no secret that rainfall is impractical for farmers. Knowing this, you’ll need to adopt irrigation to sustain your farm. Keep in mind that you need an irrigation system that suits your farming operation to prevent under or over-watering.

For example, you can’t install a drip irrigation system on your lawn unless it’s a subsurface drip irrigation system. You also can’t choose trench irrigation when planting crops such as tomatoes, potatoes, and so on. Each system is best suited for certain types of crops.

Therefore, being knowledgeable about the different types of irrigation systems is necessary during the purchase and installation process.

Some of the common systems include:

Drip Irrigation 

Drip irrigation systems are typically used in vineyards, vegetables, trees, high-value crops, etc. The systems consist of irrigation lines that feed water directly to the plants’ roots through small openings known as “drippers.”

Each dripper is aligned such that it delivers drops of water to the soil around the plant. This reduces wastage of water and stifles the growth of weeds.

Drip irrigation is the most efficient irrigation system, as water is distributed to the roots instead of the surface. Despite being close to 90% efficient, it’s not suitable for crops that aren’t planted in rows or lines. 

Sprinkler Irrigation

A sprinkler irrigation system is similar to rainfall, but instead of water coming from the sky, here water is distributed through a series of components. These include:

  • Pumping stations/centrifugal pump: Delivers water from the source into the piper system. 
  • Controller/timer: Controls the flow of water and operation of the valves. 
  • Valves: The valves divide the irrigation area into zones, making it easy to run each zone independently. 
  • Sprinkler heads: They range from oscillating sprinkler heads to fixed sprinkler heads. 
  • Lines: Water is transported from the source to the valves and sprinkler heads through an extensive pipeline. 

Sprinklers use pressure to force water into an extensive pipe system and through sprinkler heads. The water shoots out of the heads in the form of sprays onto the respective zones.

This irrigation system doesn’t deliver water directly to the roots, and this makes it less efficient than drip irrigation.

Irrigated land and soil
Source: Pixabay

The efficiency of sprinkler irrigation is about 75%. The upside is that it’s suitable for most crops and soil types. 

Types of Sprinkler Systems 

As mentioned earlier, sprinklers are suitable for a wide range of soils and crops, but it depends on the type of irrigation sprinklers you choose. Some of these include:

Hand Move: These types of sprinklers are labor-intensive, as you have to keep moving them from one zone to the next.

Center pivot system: As the name suggests, pivot irrigation systems have a central point where the control panel and pivot are located. An irrigating pipeline is attached to the main point and moves over your land in a circular pattern. The system has overhead high-pressure sprinklers or sprayers attached to the pipeline and rotates at a slow speed.

It’s a type of overhead sprinkler system suitable for low or medium-pressure water supply. It’s also unique in that it is typically used in round-shaped fields.

Stationary sprinklers: They are best suited for small areas and low-pressure water supply. They are inexpensive and spray water through holes at the top of the sprinklers.

Rotary sprinklers: As the name suggests, rotary sprinklers rotate or revolve while spraying water from their spinning arms. They have a low throw radius, making them ideal for small lawns. You can install them on a lawn with kids and pets for those hot summer days.

Traveling gun system: It features a large-capacity nozzle that sprays water over crops as it’s pulled across the land. It’s suitable for expansive farms as it can shoot water up to 350 feet in radius. 

Methods of Irrigation 

There are two main methods of irrigation, and they include: 

Traditional Methods 

These methods typically rely on manual labor as opposed to electricity. Here, water is distributed from the river, well, or canals using animals and furrows to the farm. The farmer can also opt to carry the water using cans, but this is time-consuming and inefficient.

It’s not ideal for large-scale farming unless you have many workers or opt for mechanization by adding pulley systems or chain pumps.

For example, in surface irrigation, water is applied to the farm through furrows, pipelines, or open channels. Water is distributed across the agricultural land, and once the entire area is irrigated, water application is halted to create puddle fields.

Artificial agriculture
Source: Pixabay

Surface irrigation is cheaper to maintain compared to other methods of irrigation. However, this type has unique advantages that make it suitable for certain farms based on water supply, drainage, cropping patterns, soil characteristics, etc.

Surface irrigation is low cost and requires very little equipment; you’ll typically see it in developing countries. 

Modern Methods 

These methods are more efficient as water is distributed from the river, canals, or water table directly to the crops. There is very little wastage, especially if you install the drip irrigation system.

You can also opt for a system where the application of water is through sprinklers.

Modern methods triumph over traditional methods as they are suitable even in areas where the water table is low or where irrigation water reserves are dwindling. 

Importance of Irrigation Water 

Irrigation is necessary to maximize crop yield and quality, improve profitability, and ensure sustainable water use. Without irrigation, it would be challenging to maintain agricultural land in some of the arid areas of the U.S.

Drought periods are expected almost every year and irrigation is the best solution to ensure that there is enough food to feed the country.

Localized irrigation
Source: Pixabay

Water is necessary for food production, but it’s also becoming scarce. In response, farmers have come up with ways to ensure that their lands are irrigated with little to no water wastage. This typically involves choosing an irrigation system based on your crop patterns, soil drainage, and finances.

This is why, here at the Sprinkler Supply Store, we offer a wide range of sprinkler systems for all your farming needs. We understand the importance of irrigating your land and have all the watering solutions you need to keep your farm running.

Take it from one of our many customers who needed a product that we delivered as promised:

“This site always has what I need. I had a nursery years ago and learned to appreciate the Netafim products. I live in Arizona now and can see many houses here that need the Netafim drip lines to create nice landscaping that is irrigated efficiently and correctly. I had a hard time finding products that I was used to when I had my nursery. Sprinkler Supply Store had it all and filled my order promptly.

Thank you Sprinkler Supply”

You too could become a customer and enjoy all that the Sprinkler Supply Store has to offer.

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