Water is essential and the most important necessity for plant growth and formation of quality and abundant fruits. The amount of water required by the plant depends on the growing phases during the season. The highest need for water is during the initial crop development, flowering, and fruit setting phases.
Since there are very few regions where precipitation is sufficient enough to satisfy crop needs, additional water must be provided artificially, by establishing an irrigation system. The lack of water during the growing season will lead to reduced yield and even possible failure of the entire crop production.
Water in Agriculture
Agriculture is the largest consumer of the Earth’s available fresh water. Nearly 70% of water withdrawals from watercourses and groundwater are used in farming for crop irrigation.
Due to climate change and the need for increased food production, the amount of irrigation water has drastically increased and will continue to increase.
Irrigated farming represents 20 percent of the total cultivated land, but contributes to 40 percent of the total food produced worldwide.
Worldwide, over 324 million hectares are equipped for irrigation, of which about 85 percent, or 275 million ha, are actually irrigated.
Irrigation System Types for Every Crop Production
Irrigation systems are widely used in every crop production in order to apply the amount of water needed for the crop. Despite its broad application, irrigation should occur in a uniform and timely manner in order to minimize losses and damage to soil, water, air, plant, and animal resources.
Irrigation is the artificial application of water to the soil at rates, quantities, and times needed to meet farm irrigation requirements. Water can be artificially supplied to plants using five irrigation systems:
- Flood irrigation; entire soil surface is covered with water; it moves over the field by gravity flow
- Sprinkler irrigation; crops are irrigated with high-pressure sprinklers set in the field; it can be solid or hand-moved
- Drip irrigation; water is placed directly into the crop root zone from the low flow emitters
- Center Pivot irrigation; single central irrigation pipeline rotates around the pivot point. As it rotates, water sprinklers along the central pipe and irrigates crops
- Furrow irrigation; surface irrigation method where water is applied in furrows
Prior to setting up an irrigation system, a farmer must consider the following limiting factors in order to adequately operate an irrigation:
- Soil properties; soil type, drainage, water holding capacity
- Water availability, quality, quantity, crop water requirements
- Crop properties; yield potential, frost resistance, row space, harvest practices, rooting depth
- Climate requirements; humidity, temperature, precipitation
- Farmer capabilities; farm labor, finance health, management skills, farm practices
- Irrigation system properties; operating cost, and the ability to deliver and apply the amount of water needed to meet the crop’s water requirement.
The above mentioned factors are important and should be considered prior to designing and managing an irrigation system. Moreover, all factors need to be managed well, in order to supply crops with water when they need it most.
Besides its primary function, to supply water to crops, irrigation systems help in crop and soil cooling, frost protection, delaying fruit and bud development, controlling wind erosion, germinating seeds, and fertilizer and pesticide application.
Since the dawn of agriculture, farmers have been irrigating their crops to ensure water is provided at the right time and at a rate at which the soil can absorb it without a runoff. Initially, irrigation was done manually, by using watering pots and early primitive irrigation systems.
In increasing awareness of water importance, irrigation systems have become more sophisticated, efficient, and more widely used among farmers. Modern irrigation not only saves time, but it also saves water, improves crop growth, reduce weeds, and saves money.
Finally, every farmer knows that irrigation facilitates the management of crop production by providing crops the most valuable resource, being water.