Farming is a lucrative agribusiness when all aspects are done properly. Irrigation is an important way of supplying water to plants and livestock. As a small-scale farmer, you are looking for irrigation options that are cost-effective, efficient, and environmentally friendly. With a wide range of irrigation options available, sometimes it can be pretty challenging to choose an ideal method for your farm. This article outlines different irrigation systems that can assist small-scale farmers in solving their water needs. From drip irrigation to micro-irrigation, you’re sure to find the perfect option for your farm. Besides, it also provides tips that can help you identify an ideal irrigation option. Here are 6 irrigation options that small-scale farmers can choose from. Read on!
- Drip irrigation
- Center pivot irrigation
- Sprinkler irrigation
- Flood or furrow irrigation
- Manual irrigation
- Mist irrigation
Drip irrigation is an efficient water and nutrient delivery system that can water a wide range of crops. It delivers water and nutrients directly into the root zone of different plants in the right amounts. Since it uses less water, drip irrigation can be the best option for small-scale farmers, especially in areas where water is scarce. It also works perfectly in large fields that require sophisticated irrigation systems. Additionally, it’s an eco-friendly option that uses water sustainably, minimizes soil erosion and water loss through evaporation, and enhances irrigation efficiency. Drip lines can be used to water different crops and fruits such as beans, cabbage, tomatoes, strawberries, and grapes. It is easy to customize, control water pressure, integrate with fertigation systems, and be used in different landscapes and terrains. You should consider using a solar water pump to run your drip irrigation system to cut the energy bills.
Center pivot irrigation
Center pivot irrigation is a modern system that sprinkles water on crops from overhead pivots. It does this by using a mechanical boom and arm to rotate the sprinkler arm in an arc over the crop, typically at a high rate of speed, to avoid affecting the crop. This type of system allows for consistent watering without interrupting seed germination. It also minimizes water waste by allowing only precise amounts of water to be applied at any given time. This type of irrigation is typically most effective on hard-to-irrigate soils or low plant density crops like French beans.
Why you should choose center pivot irrigation
Center pivot systems are effective for evenly watering crops and keeping the water off of the surrounding non-crop area. It is most successful in large fields but can be modified to work effectively with smaller-scale projects. With a moveable system, you can move your irrigation area as needed to ensure that all areas of the field are getting adequate amounts of water. This can be beneficial when you need to prepare the new ground or if you want to ensure that certain areas are receiving more or less water than other parts of the field. This system is excellent at conserving water and keeping it from entering your non-irrigated areas.
Which crops can you irrigate using center pivot irrigation
Because center pivot irrigation delivers water in a consistent, controlled manner, it is ideal for watering crops that are susceptible to damage if over-watered.
It can be used to irrigate crops such as:
- Legumes such as beans
- Vegetables such as cabbages
Because of its water application uniformity, center pivot irrigation is more effective for crops planted close to each other. Crops such as maize and French beans fit this description well. These crops flourish in the thickly planted rows that center pivot systems can provide. Using a center pivot system can be ideal if you have a low plant density crop like alfalfa. You will have an even watering area for your crop instead of watering each plant by hand or other methods.
Sprinkler irrigation is a common and affordable type of irrigation that uses water sprinklers to water crops uniformly. This system is versatile and can be used for ornamental plants and vegetables.
It consists of a system of pipes with sprinklers on the ends that release water onto the ground. The sprinklers are broken into zones across the property, and each zone has its independent timer. The pipes are connected to an underground or above-ground cistern (reservoir) or pond.
This type of system aims to get water directly to plants’ roots within minutes after it’s been released from the sprinkler head. In contrast, when using drip irrigation (also called micro-irrigation), water may take hours or days to reach plant roots due to soil percolation rates and drainage patterns.
Why you should use sprinkler irrigation systems
- It is a very efficient way of getting water to your plants
- The system is simple and easy to install.
- It can easily be put together by people with limited skills and tools.
- Suitable for small areas that have limited access to water supply.
- Since water flows through the sprinklers, they can be adjusted and moved in the case of any flooding.
Sprinkler irrigation systems are great in smaller gardens and lawns or on farms that want to grow their crops with less water wastage. They are usually used for more moisture crops like vegetables, fruits, etc. But if you need a cheap system and do not require much skill to install, then sprinkler irrigation systems should be your choice.
Flood or Furrow Irrigation
Furrow irrigation is mainly used for crops such as fruits and vegetables that grow on short, vertical plants; it also uses a fairly narrow strip where row-like furrows deliver water. This method works best when positioned during early summer because this type of crop only needs one good watering to develop from seedlings into mature, fully-grown plants. It is ideal for crop irrigation purposes and doubles as an effective method for controlling the water content on farm fields during dry weeks.
Manual irrigation is another popular method that entails delivering water from a water source such as a river or storage tank to crops using a hose, bucket, or watering can. This is an effective method for irrigating a small garden or fruit trees in the orchard. It can be used in crops such as citrus trees, coffee beans, sugar cane, tomatoes, and vegetables. It is the best irrigation method for leveled fields in soils with low infiltration. It has almost zero economic investment requirements. However, it can be physically demanding and time-consuming, especially when watering many plants or when the water source is far.
Mist irrigation is a type of irrigation where water droplets are sent into the air to be scattered over plants. It occurs when the hose is hooked up to a nozzle that blasts water out in all directions. This method is often used for delicate flowers and foliage, as it allows them to maintain their moisture levels without having direct contact with the ground.
Tips that can help you choose the best irrigation system
When choosing an irrigation system, it’s important to consider the specific needs of your plants and the layout of your garden. Some tips to keep in mind include:
- Consider what type of plants you’ll be growing.
- Understand your soil type
- Understand the amount of water you need on your farm
- Take your farm layout into consideration
- Consider your budget. How much are you willing to spend on an irrigation system? Which features are most important to you?
Find a qualified contractor or irrigation specialist who can help you choose the right equipment and design an installation that meets your specific needs.