Precision Irrigation: What Is It and Is It Attainable?

Precision Irrigation: What Is It and Is It Attainable?
External Guest Writer
February 11, 2021

The agriculture industry currently accounts for 70% of all freshwater withdrawals around the world. The dependency on this vital resource is expected to climb to approximately 70% over the next three decades because of the expected surge in population.

These numbers are unsustainable in the long run, which is why modern farming methods such as precision agriculture needs to step to the fore today. We examine one precision agriculture technique, precision irrigation, and its major benefits and variations in our article below.

What is Precision Irrigation?

Precision irrigation is an irrigation scheduling system that’s utilized to improve the root development process and reduce the overall wastage of water, nutrients and chemicals. The purpose of this process is to maximize the overall input utilization in the agricultural space.

The Four Major Types of Precision Irrigation

There are four major types of precision irrigation currently in use around the world. We look at these variations in the section below.

1. Surface Irrigation

Surface irrigation is reliant on the laws of gravity to help spread nutrition across the field. This method does not require any advanced methodologies, but instead relies on huge volumes of water for distribution. Farmers often utilize this method to tackle clay soils as it’s difficult to conduct surface irrigation on sandy surfaces.

Within surface irrigation, there are three major variants worth knowing about:

  • Basin Irrigation - In this method, bunds are created around fertile lands in order to flood water within a confined space. This allows water to remain in the region for extended periods and is mostly utilized to grow crops such as wheat and rice. Flat lands are ideal for this type of irrigation, and sometimes farmers need to level their fields in order to utilize basin irrigation.
  • Furrow Irrigation - Furrow irrigation relies on long trenches filled with water and usually placed at an altitude higher than the location of the crops. Gravity helps to run the water naturally to these locations with the help of either gates or tubes.
  • Border Irrigation - Here, the water source is placed between strips of farmlands and irrigation methods are utilized to supply nutrition to the crops. Border irrigation also relies on tubes and gates in order to direct and control the flow of water.

2. Sprinkler Irrigation

In sprinkler irrigation techniques, water is supplied to farmlands with the help of automated or manually operated mechanisms. Based on the type of crops being cultivated in a region, the sprinkler systems are installed to operate either seasonally or permanently.

Sprinklers are capable of performing a wide range of motions including moving forward, backwards, and rotating. They also differ greatly in terms of the quantity of water supplied to the plants in each sprinkle, and the type of pressure being created in the motion.

This method is not ideal for all types of crops as excessive water or pressure can destroy numerous plants. Sprinklers can also destroy flowers blooming on crops and thus have a negative effect on the pollination process. Even the amount of wind flowing through a region has a telling effect on the distribution process of sprinklers.

3. Drip Irrigation

Drip irrigation, also known as trickle irrigation, relies on the use of tiny pipes placed systematically across the length and breadth of farmlands. A low pressure system is utilized to direct a steady drip of water across the farm in order to provide consistent nutrition to the plants.

This is a popular and effective method of irrigation as it substantially reduces the amount of water required to irrigate a stretch of land. The consistent flow of water also discourages the growth of weeds and preserves the condition of the farm.

The only real issue with this method has to do with blockages or damages caused to the drip irrigation system. This, however, can be solved to timely maintenance.

4. Subsurface Irrigation

Subsurface irrigation is also known as underground drip irrigation and it utilizes pipes and drippers to provide water to the soil directly. As the moisture is supplied directly underground, it removes all chances of evaporation. Hence this method is considered to be the most effective when implemented well.

How Precision Irrigation is Advancing Farming Solutions

farmer looking at an aerial drone on a crop field

There are numerous benefits to using precision irrigation techniques on farmlands. This includes:

  • Saving Water: Using precision irrigation can cut down water consumption in farmlands by nearly 25%.
  • Labor savings: Apart from saving water, this method also cuts down consumption of energy, labor, and money, thereby leading to large scale savings in the long run.
  • Maximizing yields: This method also leads to an average increase of yields by at least 8%. This leads to greater profits for farmers.

Water Demands Precision

We cannot be careless when it comes to the utilization of water for agriculture. It’s a precious resource that needs to be maximized to its fullest. Precision irrigation techniques allow farmers to achieve exactly this in order to best serve the needs of their crops and our collective futures.

Read more precision agriculture-related articles: How Satellite Farming is Helping Precision Agritech