Introduction To Surface Irrigation

Irrigation is an inseparable part of agriculture, whether for farmers or personal gardeners. Water is an essential element for plants growth. Some plants require more water than others. Though they do not require an identical amount of water, they require a certain percentage promoting growth. In fact, Irrigation systems make it simple to irrigate your plants. One form of irrigation procedure is surface irrigation. Flood Irrigation is another name for it.

Flooded field after irrigation

Photo by Steve Douglas on Unsplash

Surface irrigation refers to systems that deliver water to crops using a gravity-fed, overland water flow. Likewise, Surface irrigation introduces and distributes water in a field by the gravity flow of water over the soil surface. Meanwhile, the Proper design of flood irrigation systems considers the soil type (texture and absorption rate), slope, levelness of the field, flow size, and run length.

In addition to that flood Irrigation is an entire process, and it is older than its recognition. For thousands of years, people have been practicing this irrigation process. There is a misconception that the Surface Irrigation process is sometimes considered Flood irrigation because of undirected water distribution. But if applied in a correct way, Surface Irrigation can be your best irrigation for your field. So if you want to know more about surface irrigation, read the whole article.

Rice field after surface irrigation

Advantages Of Surface Irrigation

  • Surface irrigation has huge popularity, so it does not require much awareness about its operation.
  • Moreover, You can develop flood irrigation systems at the farm level with minimal capital investment. 
  • The essential structural elements are at the edges of the fields. Meanwhile, It facilitates operation and maintenance activities.
  • Whenever the topography is not too undulating, these costs are not great. 
  • Gravity provides the source of energy for flood irrigation systems. 
  • There is a lesser impact of climatic and water quality characteristics on surface irrigation.
  • The gravity flow system is a  flexible, relatively easily managed irrigation method.

Disadvantages Of Surface Irrigation

  • However, the soil in the field has highly varied properties, both spatially and temporally.
  • Particularly, flood irrigation systems are typically less effective in irrigating than advanced systems like either sprinkler or trickle systems. 
  • The field should be well-graded and for uniform distribution of water.
  • Surface systems tend to be labor-intensive.

Types Of Surface Irrigation

Basin Irrigation- Most Popular Surface Irrigation

Basin irrigation is the most common form of surface irrigation. Basins range widely from a few square feet (orchard crops) to a few hundred square feet. In basin irrigation, you should make stable dikes around the field, forming a basin-like structure normally square in shape. Furthermore, It exists in irregular and rectangular configurations where you apply the undirected and uncontrolled water flow. Notably, You can also corrugate to facilitate a more uniform water distribution.

Basin Irrigation

Best Application Of Basin Irrigation

  • Moderate to slow intake type of soils
  • Deep-rooted and closely spaced crops
  • Reclamation of salt-affected soils

Advantages  Of Basin Irrigation

  • You can apply water anywhere along the basin perimeter.
  • You can easily automate this type of  irrigation with relatively simple and inexpensive flow controls at the basin. 
  • Markedly the cost of equipment constructing bunds is simple and cheap.

Disadvantages  Of Basin Irrigation

  • Precision land leveling is very important to achieving high uniformities and efficiencies; otherwise, water distribution in the plot is uneven.
  • There is a loss of Considerable area under field channels and bunds, i.e., nearly 30% of the area.
  •  Bunds interfere in the working of inter-cultivation equipment.
  • There is a need for more labor for field layout and irrigation in this  irrigation.

Border Irrigation- Easy To Use Surface Irrigation

Border irrigation differs from basins because the borders are rectangular, have a sloping surface, and are not diked at the tail end (free drainage). Similarly, you can view border irrigation as an expansion of basin irrigation to include long rectangular or contoured field shapes, longitudinal and free draining channels at the lower end. At the same time, You apply water to individual borders from small hand-dug checks from the field head ditch, which recedes from the upper end to the lower end when the water is shut off. 

Besides, the field is divided into several bays or strips in this surface irrigation. Most importantly, every bay has been separated by raised  banks. Usually, bays are long and narrow in comparison to Basin irrigation. Bay dimension is between 10-70 m wide and 100-700 m long. The water supply is usually to the top end of the bay. 

Border Irrigation

Best Application Of Border Irrigation

  • Firstly, Sloping borders are suitable for nearly any crop except those that require prolonged ponding.
  • Soils can be efficiently irrigated with moderately low to moderately high intake rates.
  • Deep homogenous loam or clay soils with medium infiltration rates are preferable.

Advantages Of Border Irrigation

  • Useful in larger mechanized farms to produce long uninterrupted field lengths for ease of machine operations.
  • You can use it in Large water streams safely.
  • This  irrigation Provides uniform wetting of soil profile.
  • Low labor requirement.

Disadvantages Of Border Irrigation

  • Requires relatively large water streams to quickly advance water to minimize deep percolation losses at the upper end of the border strip.
  •  Wastage of water by deep percolation in coarse-textured soils in this type of surface irrigation

Furrow Irrigation- Most Versatile Surface Irrigation

Furrow irrigation avoids uncontrolled flooding the entire field surface by channeling the flow along the one direction of the field using ‘furrows,’  or ‘corrugations .’ At the same time, the distinctive feature of this surface irrigation is that the flow into each furrow is independently set and controlled. The feature is contrary to furrowed borders and basins, where there is flow control on a border by border or basin.Furrows are sloping channels dug in the soil, planting crops in ridges.

Furrow Irrigation

Best Application Of Furrow Irrigation

  • Furrows have been well adapted to row crops, orchards, or vineyards.
  • You can use it in conjunction with basins and borders to overcome topographical variation and crusting. 
  • The surface irrigation is appropriate for Soil types like clay, loamy and silty soil are very much suitable for furrow irrigation.

Advantages Of Furrow Irrigation

  •  Fairly high irrigation application efficiency among surface irrigation methods
  • Furrows serve as field drains in areas of heavy rainfall.
  •  Low evaporation losses in this surface irrigation

Disadvantages Of Furrow Irrigation

  • Not suitable in coarse-textured soils with high infiltration rates
  •  Possibility of intra-furrow soil erosion
  •  This  irrigation is Labor intensive. 


Consequently, the surface irrigation system may appear difficult from the outside. But, it has proven to be the most effective irrigation method when you can use it properly. As a result, it has been in practice for a long time. All you have to do now is keep an eye on it with the best resources and extra care and improve progressively. In essence, you have to wisely select an irrigation method according to soil and crop type.

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