What is surface irrigation? (with photos)

Flood irrigation used to be carried out by individuals carrying buckets of water to a field.

Sometimes called flood irrigation, surface irrigation is an approach to irrigating farmland or gardens by simply allowing water to flow into the area. Using gravity efficiently is essential to the process of any surface irrigation project. This particular means of irrigating the land is the oldest approach known to mankind and is still one of the most common.

Water pumps can be used to irrigate crops.

While there are different irrigation methods that fall under the general definition of surface irrigation, all approaches will make use of some common principles and strategies. The water source will be located at a point near the top of the area that will receive the liquid flow. As the water descends into the garden area, it will be directed through furrows or it may form a puddle once it reaches the end of the growing field. Once the area is irrigated to the satisfaction of the farmer, the supply is interrupted at the entrance to the field, and the water is absorbed by the soil.

Standing water is often used by mosquitoes as a breeding ground.

There are three forms of surface irrigation used for commercial and family farms. The level basin method is one of the most popular of all surface water irrigation strategies. With this method, the land in the garden area is more or less flat, with earth banks around the perimeter. Water is introduced into the basin quickly and allowed to settle as it is absorbed by the soil. It is possible to create a series of basins and allow excess water to drain from one basin to the next in order to maximize efficient water use.

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Furrow irrigation is another popular approach to surface irrigation. This process involves creating grooves, or channels, located on either side of the plant rows. Water is introduced at the top of each furrow and can run down to the end of the line. By moving the water at high speed, it will be possible to ensure that the end of the line receives an amount of water comparable to the water that is absorbed at the front of the line.

A subgroup of furrow irrigation is known as peak irrigation. This method of surface water irrigation is similar to furrow irrigation in that the water flow moves from the top of a row to the end. The difference with this surface irrigation system is that the water is released in jets, rather than a single steady stream. The result is the establishment of a controlled pattern of wet and dry cycles that can be ideal for some types of plants.

The last class of surface irrigation is known as the boundary strip approach. Such a system integrates flush and furrow irrigation elements, where land boundaries are spaced closer together. This effectively creates thin channels that make directing and controlling the flow of water a relatively easy job.

With all forms of surface irrigation, there is a danger of flooding the field, which can lead to crop failure. Monitoring and adjusting the approach used often minimizes this possibility. Also, using lesser-known methods such as surface drip irrigation may be a better option in some cases.

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