Why convert from flood irrigation to mechanized irrigation systems?

Mechanical move irrigation is a proven method for conserving water, time, labour and chemicals while greatly reducing runoff and contamination of streams and wetlands. And best of all, studies show that in nearly every case, mechanical move irrigation produces higher yields.Switching from flood/furrow irrigation to a mechanized system results in: 

  • Uniformly applying the correct amount of water at the right time
  • Using less water for less waste
  • Lower energy costs
  • Lower labor costs
  • Years and years of use
  • Fewer maintenance hassles
  • Less stress on the environment

Flood irrigation is one of the oldest methods of irrigation. This type is also referred to as surface or furrow. Flood irrigation is pretty self-explanatory. In this irrigation type, you literally flood the field with water and wait for it to absorb. This is a very commonly used type of irrigation, however it does have severe downsides. The biggest downside is the sheer amount of water used. As the name suggests, water used in flood irrigation is more or less “uncontrolled” and is applied in large amounts to massive areas. Because of how the water is applied to the field, the efficiency of this irrigation type is a meager 40-50%.

Soils and plants can only absorb water so quickly, and that’s why it’s important to know how your field will respond to different water applications. Because flood irrigation saturates the soil so quickly, the plant roots cannot take advantage of all of the available water. As a result, large amounts of water can trickle down past the roots, also known as leeching, and waste resources. Other water loss can be associated with runoff and evaporation.

Another risk associated with flood irrigation is waterlogging. Waterlogging occurs when a plant’s roots have too much water, and the plant’s growth is stunted until enough water has drained from the root zone. Situations like this also run the risk of plants becoming more susceptible to disease. The over-abundance of water can negatively impact crop yields.

Flood or furrow irrigation has been practiced for thousands of years and has been modified with new practices and technology along the way. Among the cheapest forms of irrigation, you can find flood irrigated fields around the globe. In areas abundant with freshwater, growers can turn on the pumps and let the flood waters carry silt and nutrients across the field.

There have been many successful flood irrigation operations in the past and there will be many more. Unfortunately, the need to conserve resources is growing and most producers will not be able to support the amount of water needed for high yields. Flood irrigation may produce strong yields, but beware, your inputs may also put your crops in danger. Before deciding on flood, make sure to learn about additional methods like drip or mechanized. These are typically much more efficient in terms of water, nutrients, and chemical application.