The sprinkler irrigation system is a crop irrigation method similar to rainfall. The system distributes water over the field surface by spraying it into the air and allowing it to fall on the soil like, similar to that of rain.
By spraying the water through small nozzles on the lateral pipe, the system provides a water rate according to crop needs. Moreover, the main purpose of a sprinkler system is to uniformly apply water by broadcasting in well-defined patterns.
There are many sprinkler irrigation systems available on the market today. They mainly differ in design and irrigation capacity. According to the system’s components and the way they are used, the sprinkler system can be classified into the following types:
- Portable lateral with sprinklers - moved as a whole
- Semi-solid set - only sprinklers are moved
- Dragline - only sprinklers and hoses are moved
- Big gun - with portable supply pipe where gun and supply pipe are moved
- Side-roll - moved as a whole
- Permanent - solid set
If designed and operated properly, application efficiency of a sprinkler system can be 50-95 %. To provide the full system’s performance, a farmer needs to consider important parameters prior to the establishment. The sprinkler system a farmer will establish on his farmland depends not only on his financial ability but also on crop type, as well as several other aspects:
- The field’s size, slope and shape
- Cultural practices
- Crop production management
- System type
- The amount and time needed to operate the system.
All of the above-mentioned parameters are important in considering prior to the establishment of a sprinkler system in order to provide successful irrigation management. Moreover, a farmer’s knowledge about crop needs and system operation are a great contributor to the overall crop production success.
Poor management (irrigating too soon or applying too much water) is the greatest cause of reduced water application efficiency when using sprinklers.
Advantages of a Sprinkler Irrigation System
A sprinkler system is one of the most used and efficient irrigation systems, along with the drip system. Applying water through a sprinkler system has many advantages. Just some of them include:
- Suitable for all soil types and slope terrains
- Suitable for irrigation of nearly all crop types (cereals, vegetables, small fruits), except crops such as paddy and jute
- Simple to install and maintain
- Mobile system which can operate over the entire field surface
- Easy control of applied water
- Possibility of split fertilizer and pesticide application
- Decreased likelihood of clogging the nozzles due to particles in soil or water for irrigation
- Reduced cost of overall farm labor
- Reduced erosion of soil cover.
Among its benefits, the most important is water conservation, which can be achieved up to 50% compared to that of surface irrigation. Additionally, crop productivity increases by about 15-25 %.
Disadvantages of a Sprinkler Irrigation System
Despite its numerous advantages, sprinkler systems have some constraints as well. The main constraints which limit sprinkler use are:
- Uneven water distribution due to high winds
- High evaporation loss when irrigating under high temperature
- High water pressure is required
- Not suitable for tall crops (fruit trees) and crops susceptible to foliar diseases
- High initial cost for some sprinkler types
Every irrigation system is designed to maximize efficiency and minimize labor and capital requirements. In this regard, effective management practices for sprinkler irrigation system depend on the design, establishment practices, and farmer’s ability to manage the system properly.
Unlike other systems, sprinklers have the advantage to uniformly apply water at a rate lower than the infiltration rate of the soil, thereby preventing runoff and resulting damage to soil and crops.