Man has used irrigation to water crops since ancient times. Although original irrigation methods were more rudimentary, different types of irrigation systems are used around the world today – including modern agricultural irrigation systems that have been created by companies dedicated to the design of agricultural irrigation systems that will meet water supply needs. Although no irrigation system is without repair requirements, modern irrigation is much more efficient and reliable than it was in the past.
Agricultural Irrigation Through History
For thousands of years, irrigation was used by ancient civilizations to provide water to fertile yet arid lands. Based on geography, available water sources, and annual flooding, various regions used different methods to get water from rivers to planted crops in the following ways:
Basin Irrigation – Up to 2000 years ago, people along the Mediterranean Sea and the Nile River Basin in Egypt relied on annual river flooding to supply water to their fields. Planting was done in large basins that consisted of fields surrounded by low walls and floodgates to hold the flood waters. Water was allowed to enter the areas when it flooded and be absorbed into the soil. When the ground was sufficiently saturated, the floodgates were opened to divert water away from the fields so the plants could then grow. It was the most effective method of the time, although it only allowed for one crop per year.
Perennial Irrigation – First used in Mesopotamia, a perennial irrigation system allowed water to reach planted fields through a series of man-made channels and waterways extending from the water source. Because there was more control over the water, growing food in Mesopotamia was controlled throughout the entire year. As a result of its success, this type of irrigation became one of the preferred methods of the times because it provided for the longest growing season. It was used in many other regions of the world, such as India and much of the Far East.
Terrace Irrigation – Dating back to the third millennium BCE in Peru, Syria, China, and other countries, this type of farm irrigation system was used primarily in hilly regions and is one of the earliest documented irrigation methods. Planting was done on various levels, or steppes, and featured water containment units, placed at the tops of hills and mountains, and canals that fed the lower-level growing terraces. Rainfall and water from mountain streams was captured and then fed to the lower fields that lacked adequate water supplies or annual rainfall.
Underground Canals – Underground canals are thought to be the most complex and ingenious of the ancient irrigation systems. Dating back to 300 BCE in Sri Lanka, this method tapped into natural springs and underground water sources, allowing water to flow as needed and water crops in the fields. This was also the first civilization to build true water reservoirs to store the water that was extracted from the ground, to be later used as necessary for irrigation needs.
These are just a few of the main methods of irrigation used by ancient cultures. Many global civilizations found ingenious ways to access water for farm irrigation – from natural water flow to building water wheels, canals, trenches, wells, and many other methods, many of which are still in use today. Modern history and technology has created efficient agricultural irrigation systems that can supply water to fields located away from natural sources of water. Thankfully, there are agricultural irrigation system supply companies conveniently available to help farmers keep crops watered and growing wherever they are located!