Irrigation is defined as the carefully controlled process of watering agricultural crop through artificial means in order to facilitate their growth and development. Now you will see that we have mentioned the phrase ‘carefully controlled’ in the definition and are probably wondering what means.
Well, the whole process of irrigation is strictly controlled. The farmer must determine the exact amount of water required by the crop. Too little water will dry out the plants, whereas too much water may damage the root. In addition to watering the crops, irrigation also entails watering the lands before planting seeds to create a favourable habitat for crops. It also needs to be done carefully. Thus, irrigation is a much more complicated process than just watering plants.
Agriculture or farming is a very ancient occupation, and so are methods of irrigation. We can see evidence of different irrigation techniques employed by ancient civilisations which include irrigation canals, dams, water storage facilities, structures like aqueducts and the like.
However, we will concentrate only on modern methods of irrigation for now.
Modern Methods of Irrigation
The methods of irrigation can be divided into four main types. These include – Surface irrigation, sprinkler, drip and subsurface.
These modern irrigation techniques have been discussed in detail below –
It is one of the most common methods of irrigation. Here water is applied to the soil with the help of gravity. Since the distribution of water is not regulated, surface irrigation is also known as flood irrigation.
This irrigation system is farther classified into three other types of modern methods of irrigation. These are as follows –
Furrow – in case of furrow irrigation, water is made to flow through shallow channels which are evenly spaced out and at a slope to the field. The water in these shallow channels are supplied through a variety of ways such as siphon, main ditch, gated pipe etc.
Inflow rate, soil infiltration, slope and shape of furrows and surface roughness determine the speed of the water. It requires less capital investment, but it is one of the most labour intensive methods of irrigation.
Basin and border irrigation – Both of these techniques involve water running through the soil. However, in basin irrigation, water is supplied to a field which may result in ponding for a while. on the other hand, water is made to flow through ditches running through the ground with a drainage system at the end.
in case of this irrigation system, water is sprinkled or sprayed on plants. The effect is similar to rainfall. A sprinkler irrigation system requires sprinklers, laterals, mainlines, sub mainlines and pump unit.
The mainlines and sub mainlines transport the water from pumps to fields where it is sprayed on the plants via the sprinkles. Sprinklers are differentiated based on the volume of water it can spray. Examples of crops which are watered through this irrigation technique are cotton, onion, maize, wheat, gram, sunflower etc.
Advantages of this technique are –
It is suitable for watering all types of soil except heavy clay.
It is useful in areas where crop population per unit is high.
It reduces soil compaction.
This irrigation system, as the name suggests, involves watering the crops drip by drip. Hence, it is also known as trickle irrigation method. The irrigation system includes small diameter pipes with emitter or drippers that lie close to grounds, thereby providing water to the roots. It is one of the most efficient modern irrigation techniques as it reduces runoff and water evaporation significantly. This irrigation technique can also be used to provide fertilisers to crops.
The water application is more frequent with this irrigation technique compared to other methods which result in high moisture levels in the soil. Some crops which require this type of irrigation are vegetables, cash crops, plantation, spices etc.
Some of the benefits of the drip irrigation system are –
It helps in the conservation of water and reduces the cost of fertilisation
Since water is provided uniformly, crop growth is also consistent.
Why is Irrigation Necessary?
Now that you are aware of what are the methods of irrigation, you should also know about the importance of irrigation. These are as follows -
Irrigation techniques enable farmers to grow multiple crops in a year thereby enhancing productivity
Proper irrigation helps crops to develop quickly, which ensures higher returns for farmers.
Irrigation protects against insufficient rainfall and drought.
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