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Irrigation transports water to crops to help increase yield, keep crops cool under excessive heat conditions and prevent freezing. It also makes agriculture possible in areas previously unsuitable for intensive crop production.
University of Arizona. Credit John C. Palumbo
The need to irrigate is usually driven by the necessity to meet the water needs of the crop from year to year (some areas of the country simply receive too little rainfall during the growing season to support economical crop growth). In other situations, irrigation is viewed as insurance against occasional drought. In areas where rainfall is plentiful in most years, irrigation can bring benefits by reducing risk, meaning that a farmer is better able to control income fluctuation.
Surface irrigation is also known as flood or furrow irrigation. This is where farmers flow water down small trenches running through their crops. Flood irrigation is not the most efficient irrigation method, but it is cheap and low-tech.
Subsurface drip irrigation is a low-pressure, high efficiency irrigation system that uses buried drip tubes or drip tape to water crops. With an appropriately sized and well maintained system, water application is highly uniform and efficient. Wetting occurs around the tube and water typically moves out in all directions.
Since the water is applied below the soil surface, some effects of surface irrigation characteristics, such as crusting, saturated conditions of ponding water, and potential surface runoff (including soil erosion) are essentially eliminated when using subsurface irrigation.
A subsurface drip system may require higher initial investment than a gated pipe/furrow system and cost will vary due to water source, water quality, filtration needs, choice of material, soil characteristics and degree of automation desired.
Center Pivot: Center pivot system pivot around a central point known as the pivot point or pivot pad and the pump house. Center pivots come in many sizes, from 1 acre up to 400 acres or more. One major advantage is the low labor cost, as operation is usually a one man job.
Linear Move: Linear move systems are very similar to the center pivot. The main difference is travel path and water inlet. Linear systems moves in a linear or straight path. Water is supplied through a drag hose or a water channel.
Hand-moved: Hand moved systems consists of a main and sub maineline pipes that deliver water from the pump to a lateral line. The lateral then delivers water to the sprinklers. This system is movable and very labor intensive.