Irrigation Techniques: Study Notes

By Mukul Yadav|Updated : March 3rd, 2023

Irrigation techniques are various techniques available for the irrigation of land required for different purposes. Irrigation techniques depend on the type of land, type of crop, pattern of the crop, the requirement of water, etc. The irrigation techniques also depend on the availability of water.

Irrigation methods include surface methods, sub-surface methods, sprinkler methods, etc. The article contains fundamental notes on the "Irrigation Techniques" topic of the "Irrigation Engineering" subject.

Table of Content

What are the Irrigation Techniques?

In India, the irrigated area consists of about 36 percent of the net sown area. There are various techniques of irrigation practices in different parts of India. These methods of irrigation differ in how the water obtained from the source is distributed within the field. In general, the goal of irrigation is to supply the entire field homogeneously with water, so that each plant has the amount of water it needs, neither too much nor too little. Irrigation in India is done through wells, tanks, canals, perennial canals, and multi-purpose river valley projects.

Irrigation Techniques

Types of Irrigation Systems

The major aim of irrigation systems is to help out in the growing of agricultural crops and vegetation by maintaining the minimum amount of water required, maintenance of landscapes, and re-vegetation of disturbed soils. There are several types of irrigation systems, described below.

  1. Surface Irrigation: This is the most common type of irrigation and involves the application of water to the soil surface, where it infiltrates and spreads by gravity. Examples include furrow, flood, and border irrigation.

  2. Sprinkler Irrigation: This method involves spraying water onto crops through a system of pipes and nozzles, mimicking rainfall. This method is commonly used for watering crops, gardens, and lawns.

  3. Drip Irrigation: Also known as micro-irrigation or trickle irrigation, this method involves applying water directly to the plant roots through a network of small tubes or pipes. This method is particularly useful in arid regions where water is scarce.

  4. Center Pivot Irrigation: This is a type of sprinkler irrigation where a circular area is irrigated by a sprinkler system mounted on a pivot that rotates around a central point. This method is commonly used for large-scale farming operations.

  5. Subsurface Irrigation: This involves applying water directly to the root zone of crops through buried perforated pipes or porous tubes. This method is particularly useful for crops that are sensitive to water on their leaves or require constant moisture.

  6. Lateral Move Irrigation: This is a type of sprinkler irrigation where the sprinklers are mounted on a wheeled cart that moves along a linear track, irrigating a rectangular area. This method is commonly used for smaller-scale farming operations.

What is Surface Irrigation?

In this technique, water flows and spreads over the surface of the land. Varied quantities of water are allowed on the fields at different times. Therefore, it is very difficult to understand the hydraulics of surface irrigation. However, suitable and efficient surface irrigation systems can be espoused after taking into consideration different factors which are involved in the hydraulics of surface irrigation.

  • The surface slope of the field
  • The roughness of the field surface
  • Depth of water to be applied
  • Length of run and time required
  • Size and shape of water-course
  • Discharge of the water-course
  • Field resistance to erosion

If the surface irrigation method is perfectly selected, it fulfills the following requirements:

  • It assists in storing a required amount of water in the root zone depth.
  • It reduces the wastage of irrigation water from the field in the form of run-off water.
  • It reduces soil erosion to a minimum.
  • It helps to apply a uniform application of water to the fields.
  • The amount of manual labor required is less.
  • It is suitable for the size of the field and at the same time, it uses the minimum land for making ditches, furrows, strips, etc.
  • It does not avert the use of machinery for land preparation, cultivation, harvesting

Surface irrigation technique is broadly classified as

Basin irrigation - Basin irrigation is a common practice of surface irrigation. If a field is a level in all directions, is encompassed by a dyke to prevent runoff, and provides an undirected flow of water onto the field, it is herein called a basin. It may be furrowed or ridged, and have raised beds for the benefit of certain crops, but as long as the inflow is undirected and uncontrolled into these field modifications, it remains a basin.

Furrow irrigation - In the furrow irrigation technique, trenches or “furrows” are dug between crop rows in a field. Farmers flow water down the furrows (often using only gravity) and it seeps vertically and horizontally to refill the soil reservoir. Flow to each furrow is individually controlled. Furrow irrigation is suitable for row crops, and tree crops, and because water does not directly contact the plants, crops that would be damaged by direct inundation by water such as tomatoes, vegetables, potatoes, and beans. It is one of the oldest systems of irrigation. It is economical and low-tech making it particularly attractive in the developing world or places where mechanized spray irrigation is unavailable or impractical.

Advantages of Irrigation Techniques

Irrigation techniques have numerous advantages, and it depends upon the type of irrigation system. Here a few advantages of the furrow irrigation system are listed below.

  • Large areas can be irrigated at a time.
  • It saves labor since once the furrow is filled, it is not necessary to give water a second time.
  • It is a reasonably cheaper method.
  • Plants get the proper quantity of water through this system.

Disadvantages of Furrow Irrigation Techniques

The major drawback of the furrow system of irrigation is ensuring uniform dispersal of water over a given field. To tackle this problem, some farmers engage in field leveling to remove any small hills that would have been bypassed by the gravity flow of the water. Another problem with furrow irrigation is the increased potential for water loss due to runoff. Building retention ponds along the edges of fields can help capture this runoff, allowing it to be pumped back to the upslope side of the field for use in further irrigation cycles.

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FAQs about Irrigation Techniques

  • There are five types of irrigation facilities that are most common to provide in India. These are surface irrigation, sprinkler irrigation, drip irrigation, furrow irrigation, and basin irrigation.

  • Irrigation systems can be classified as surface irrigation, drip irrigation, localized irrigation, sprinkler irrigation, lateral move irrigation, center pivot irrigation, manual irrigation, sub-irrigation, etc.

  • Irrigation can be classified into mainly: surface irrigation, sub-surface irrigation, sprinkler irrigation, and drip irrigation. These types of irrigation are used based on their availability and suitability for the crop.

  • Irrigation techniques are various techniques available for the irrigation of land required for different purposes. Irrigation techniques depend on the type of land, type of crop, pattern of the crop, the requirement of water, etc.

  • Sprinkler irrigation is a method for applying irrigation water to crops by means of sprinkling the water over the crops. It has certain advantages and is generally used for crops which require less quantity of water.

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