Crop irrigation is essential for many growers today, allowing them to bring water to where it is most needed to increase crop yields. Yet not all farm irrigation systems are the same, with some more suited for specific needs than others. Before investing in an ag irrigation system, make sure the one that is purchased is the right one to offer the most efficient watering and highest crops yields.

Irrigation System Differences

Farm irrigation systems are a big investment. Therefore, it is important to do the proper research before investing in any type of ag irrigation system. Growers must determine which system will be the most efficient according to crop needs and the available system designs. Making a final decision about which system is best should be based on the size, shape, and type of land, as well as the crops being grown. Water and fuel sources, system cost, labor requirements, and other specifics must also be a part of any decision-making process.

Different Irrigation Systems Applications

Following are the five basic types of farm irrigation systems to consider, each with certain benefits and disadvantages:

  • Center Pivot Systems - These are self-propelled irrigation systems that rotate around a central pivot point, irrigating a large circle. They are a favorite for larger areas, easy to program or customize, and are available as both low and high pressure systems. They have a variety of nozzles and sprinkler heads that can irrigate just about any crop. Center pivot systems are usually electric powered with small motors at each tower. These are one of the more popular systems used today, although they are most efficiently used on square or circular fields for the most efficient coverage.
  • Linear Systems - These systems are also self-propelled and comprised of a straight line of sprinklers that laterally travel the length of a field. Like center pivot systems, linear irrigation systems are available in multiple models that are simple to program and easily customized. There are low and high pressure models available for different irrigation needs. Linear systems are more commonly electric powered with a diesel powered generator. Water is supplied either through a feed ditch or by a hose connected into one end of the line. Linear systems are guided by above-ground or underground cables, furrows, and GPS wireless guidance systems.
  • Traveling Gun Systems - These systems are usually hard hose reels with a sprinkler attached to a cart at the end of the hose. They consist of a water gun that sprays over the crops as the sprinkler cart progresses along an irrigation path. These systems follow the path where the hard poly hose has been laid, rolling it up as it travels. They require higher pressure than other systems and can be somewhat labor-intensive. Still, they are often more affordable and more efficient for irrigating irregularly-shaped fields.
  • Solid Set and Permanent Set Systems - These systems have stationary sprinklers that are fed by either portable or above-ground water lines as well as permanent, underground lines. They are most useful for smaller parcels of land. Impact or rotator type sprinklers are used; spacing is generally dependent upon the crop, the amount of water necessary, water pressure, and the size of the sprinkler head. Portable systems require more labor, while permanent systems can be easily customized and programmed. These systems tend to have a higher cost per acre than any other system.
  • Micro-Irrigation Systems - These systems are available as drip or micro sprinkler. They are more expensive per acre, yet conserve water by delivering it directly to individual plants or to the root ball area, rather than spraying over entire rows of plants. With either system, irrigator nozzles are set into the ground at specific locations for precise watering. Micro-irrigation systems are especially suited for orchard crops and similar applications.

Ag irrigation systems are a considerable, yet necessary investment. For growers to receive the best return on their investment and get the best yield from their crops, it is essential to use farm irrigation systems that are best-suited to field layout, crop type, and other specifics.

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