Irrigation is a method where water is supplied to plants at regular intervals. It is commonly used to supply water to crops, landscapes and to help severely dried out soil to recover. It is a great way of keeping crops and grass alive during times of drought or severe drought. Irrigation can also be used to suppress weed growth in grain fields and protect plants against frost, but that’s not all as it can also be used to dispose of sewage waste and suppress dust.
The origin of irrigation
Irrigation of horticultural crops started around 1887. This saw the start of large-scale irrigation using pumps that could lift water from rivers to channels, allowing water to be supplied to surrounding farms. As irrigation developed the use of steam powered pumps, which were built in England were adopted allowing farm water to be distributed along channels using gravity to reach the crops by furrows or to create flood irrigation. This was followed by diesel and electrically powered pumps allowing water to be distributed even further.
In the 1950’s private investment in irrigation was significant with investment in electric pumps to lift water to pipeline water distribution systems, allowing water to be applied through water sprinklers or drip irrigation systems. The types used were:
Pumping water from the river to supply a water distribution system and deliver water to farms.
Gravity channel supply systems which used pipelines minimizing water loss and connected to pressurized on-farm irrigation.
Sprinkler systems were used and from the 1970’s micro-sprinkler and drip systems replaced the traditional methods. Decisions on when to irrigate, and how much water to apply.
In sprinkler or overhead irrigation, water is piped to one or more central locations within the field and distributed by overhead high-pressure sprinklers or guns. A system utilizing sprinklers, sprays, or guns mounted overhead on permanently installed risers is often referred to as a solid-set irrigation system.
The modern system of reticulation is used only in Australia and this is where water from a piped network is used rather than water from a bore or well. A series of pipes are laid to create a network of pipes that form a pattern that delivers irrigation over wide areas and helps to achieve controlled and accurate distribution of water to the required areas. Efficient use of water is a major focus across the whole country.
The impact on today’s living
Today irrigation water is almost entirely applied to crops through some form of the pressurized system, with minor exceptions for some irrigated pastures that may be flood irrigated where soils and gradients are appropriate. To give the farmer the best possible chance of maintaining healthy crops, water is a vital ingredient and the development of irrigation systems has had a significant impact on farmers.
Farmers need the ability to grow their crops and prevent massive crop losses during times of severe drought, which would not be possible without adequate irrigation systems.