5 Types of Irrigation Systems

Irrigation is essential to support agricultural crop growth. Relying on rain is not practical, especially in Australia where rainfall can be both unreliable and insufficient. However, overwatering can be just as detrimental to crop growth, so choosing the right irrigation system is one of the most important steps in setting up a successful farming operation.

The goal of irrigation is to encourage plant growth while minimising soil erosion and water loss. To choose the right irrigation system you will need to have a knowledge of soil, equipment, plant species and land formation. 

These are 5 of the most common types of irrigation systems.,

1. Drip Irrigation Systems

Commonly used in orchards, vineyards and high-value vegetable crops, drip irrigation systems consist of a network of tubes that have small holes or emitters. They can be placed above or below the soil’s surface and slowly drip water into the soil over long periods. 

Advantages include:

  • Uses 30–50% less water than other systems
  • Prevents soil erosion and nutrient runoff
  • Continuous flow allows water to penetrate deep into the soil and down to the roots
  • Controls fungal growth
  • Easy to modify

2. Sprinkler Irrigation

In sprinkler irrigation systems, water flows through a series of pipes and is delivered in a fine spray to specific areas. Micro sprinklers are particularly effective for tree crops. They also use less water and are cheaper to run.

Advantages include:

  • Affordable and easy to set up
  • Allows even distribution of water
  • Easy to covers large areas
  • Water at your chosen time of day to minimise evaporation

3. Centre Pivot Irrigation

A centre pivot irrigation system is self-propelled and works with the use of a central pipe with outlets rotating around a central pivot point. It works like the sprinkler irrigation system, but it is much bigger and is supported by steel or aluminium towers. 

Advantages include:

  • Water is distributed evenly
  • Covers large areas in a short period of time
  • Prevents water runoff
  • Operates at a lower pressure saving energy

4. Furrow Irrigation Systems

Furrow irrigation is a form of surface irrigation where small parallel channels are created and filled with water. Crops are grown on the ridges between the channels. Furrow irrigation is suitable for a wide range of crops, especially row crops like corn, sunflower, sugarcane and soybean and those that would be damaged by flooding like tomatoes and beans. 

Advantages include:

  • Usually results in a higher yield
  • Low installation cost
  • Saves time and labour
  • Saves money on water

5. Terraced Irrigation

Terrace irrigation is an ancient agriculture practice that still exists today, generally in mountainous regions. A series of steps are cut into the sloped land so that when it rains, the water flows down from the top step down to the succeeding steps retaining the soil nutrients as it goes. 

Advantages include: 

  • Manages water runoff
  • Prevents soil runoff
  • Improves soil fertility
  • Improves land productivity

Smart Irrigation Technology

Thanks to Deakin University associate professor John Hornbuckle’s research, smart sensing automation technology is one step closer to being a reality. Using sensors and satellites,  the technology is a game changer for broadacre irrigators and will allow them to irrigate inland crops remotely.

Read more about the benefits of automation technology.

If you are in need of a reliable irrigation system, contact Goulburn Valley Sprinklers. Outstanding service, quality irrigation systems and great value for money.