All living beings require water to survive. Animals and human beings directly fulfill their water requirement by drinking water. Similarly, plants and crops need water to thrive and survive. Being mobile, they cannot fulfill their water needs completely on their own. Although they can transport water molecules from the ground through their roots, to grow into healthy crops, they need an external source of water. The process of supplying definite water supply at set intervals of time to crops for cultivation, maintenance, and revegetation is called as Irrigation.

What does Irrigation Refer to?

Supplying water to agricultural land for cultivation is known as irrigation. Farms also receive a good amount of rainfall and the rainwater may be useful to crops for growth. But the water supplied through irrigation is in limited and set amounts, at regular intervals of time, and keeps the soil moist and appropriate for the crops. Thus, any part and patch of land with good and nutrient-rich soil can be used for farming even if the rainfall is scarce in that area with the help of irrigation. It ensures a continuous supply of the required quantities of water to crops. Water for irrigation can be extracted from wells, groundwater, springs, surface water reserves, etc. 

Methods of Irrigation

Farmers have been relying on two methods of irrigation for ages, which are, namely:


  1. Traditional Method

  2. Modern Method

Traditional Irrigation vs Modern Irrigation

Traditional Irrigation

Modern Irrigation

Traditional Irrigation has been in practice by the farmers for decades and is a cheaper way.

Modern Irrigation as the name suggests, is a new and advanced practice but costs more than traditional methods.

Traditional method is inefficient and does not guarantee even distribution of water to all areas.

Modern irrigation is effective and ensures an even and efficient water supply to all areas.

It involves a higher rate of water loss.

Water loss is less and the potential efficient use of water. 

Mostly done by the farmer himself with the help of cattle by drawing water from wells, canals, etc.  

Mostly involves advanced techniques and tools. Irrigation machinery is also used. 

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 Image of Drip Irrigation

Types of Irrigation

There are several different ways in which modern irrigation can be carried out. These are called types of irrigation. The type of irrigation depends upon the soil type, crop type, climate of the area, and moisture content of the soil. Its major types are as follows-

Surface Irrigation

Surface irrigation is done manually and doesn’t require the use of machinery. In this process, water is scattered onto the surface of the agricultural land with the help of gravity. Surface irrigation is further divided into two types, namely- Furrow irrigation and Basin irrigation. Flood irrigation is also included under surface irrigation, wherein, the cultivated land is flooded with water from nearby canals or water sources. Flood irrigation is still in practice worldwide mostly for rice crops.

Micro Irrigation

It is also most often called localized irrigation. It is so-called because a network of pipes running through the soil evenly and effectively distributes water to each plant under low pressure. Micro-irrigation is a very effective method of irrigation since it ensures the right quantity and evenly distributes water at regular intervals of time to all crops. Furthermore, depending upon the purpose, technique, and distribution of water micro-irrigation can be carried out in different ways.

  • Drip Irrigation- Irrigation system in which Drip Irrigation Tubing distributes drop by drop water to each crop near their roots is called Drip Irrigation. The water droplets are then absorbed by the roots, thus minimizing the evaporation rate of water. Thus, this irrigation system is very effective and saves water evaporation. However, this irrigation system requires a lot of maintenance, the setup is lengthy and has to be done properly in order to reap full benefits.

  • Sprinkler Irrigation- High-pressure sprinklers either fixed at a central location or on a moving platform sprinkle water over the cultivated land. Rotating sprinklers called rotors are fixed at a certain point, which rotates in a full or partial circle to sprinkle water over the cultivated field. Or, sprinklers are also mounted on a moving platform that is connected to a water source, moving around the field, sprinkling water over the crops.

  • Central Pivot Irrigation- System in which sprinklers are mounted on a moving tower that goes in a circular motion across the field is called Central Pivot Irrigation. This irrigation system is used worldwide and is very effective and efficient.

  • Irrigation by Lateral Move- Water sprinkled over the field through an even network of pipes or water lines, manually or by machinery is Lateral Move Irrigation. It is very cost-effective but requires a lot of labor and hard work.

Sub Irrigation

In this system, a water table from a nearby canal, river, or any other water source is allowed to rise under a controlled condition and then this water gets dispersed evenly over the cultivated field. In this method pumping stations, gates, etc. are used to raise the water table. It is a cost-effective and efficient method and can be carried out on the fields which are nearby a water source.

What is the Importance of Irrigation? 

  • Agricultural productivity mainly depends on irrigation.

  • A lot of factors affect the agricultural produce, the most important of which is water availability. There are many regions that get less average rainfall or the soil lacks moisture important for the growth of crops. Irrigation ensures water availability.

  • Irrigation increases the chances of water and nutrient availability to the cultivated land.

  • Irrigation provides a support system in times of drought or famine.

  • Too much water supply or too little water supply affects the crops badly. Hence, irrigation systems help yield a good batch of crops with maintained water supply.

FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

1. What is Irrigation?

Irrigation is the process of providing sufficient water supply to crops, at regular intervals of time in set amounts by various methods, to ensure good agricultural produce. It is the system by which a cultivated land is maintained by providing adequate water and nutrient supply.

2. Why is Modern irrigation effective over the Traditional method?

The traditional method doesn’t involve the use of any machinery, it is done manually by farmers, with the help of cattle many times. It is very laboring and involves hard work. It is not effective because it does not ensure equal distribution of water over all parts of the land. On the other hand, the Modern method is very effective, as it ensures equal distribution of water supply, involves less labor and hard work, and is done by machinery.