The 5 Types of Irrigation Systems you Need to Know About


You’ve planted your fields – now what? Seeds (and later, crops) need to be nourished and protected in the field. Depending on where you live, you may need to have some sort of irrigation set up in your fields. Systems should be efficient enough to get water where it needs to be without overwatering and creating runoff. Cost of water, the irrigation system, and any fuel or labor should also be considered in choosing which irrigation system would work best for you. The method and frequency of irrigation depends on the region you live in and weather patterns. If you live in a dry area, you may choose a permanent irrigation system, while if you get frequent rain, a supplemental system would be enough to help you out.

Center Pivot Irrigation Systems – This system is self-propelled, powered by water pressure, oil, or electricity. One side of the machine stays secure, and the other pivots around in a circle. This system is best for circle or square fields. There are additional nozzles that can be attached to the end for extra spray out to cover more ground.

Linear Move Irrigation Systems – Great for long fields, this system moves in a continuous, straight line down the field. It can cover several rows at once and is guided by either a cable or GPS, depending on how much you are willing to spend. However, for this system, the land needs to be fairly level to function properly. Linear systems can be ditch or hose-fed.

Traveling Gun Systems – Traveling gun systems are basically just large, movable sprinklers. The sprinkler unit is on a cart that is attached to a watering system. There are two main kinds.

Cable Tow Traveler: A hose is used to connect the source of water to the machine. There is some sort of engine needed to power the machine. The machine is then pulled with a cable towards a docking station. It gets pulled forward until it reaches the docking station, where it then stops.

Hose-Pull Traveler: This is a stationary machine that can be put in the field. It is attached to a hose that is unwound. As the machine moves, it winds up the hose, which moves the sprinkler portion of the machine

Solid set – Above ground piping with sprinklers attached, usually portable for maneuverability.

Permanent set irrigation systems – Pipes that are buried underneath the field that have sprinklers with risers to evenly water the crops. This system works for fairly dry areas that need consistent and even watering.

Micro Irrigation Systems – These systems are used mostly for efficiency. Water is distributed uniformly and at a low output rate to ensure water conservation. These systems tend to be more energy efficient as well, and since the area being water is hyper-focused, there are often fewer weed issues in fields with these systems. There are two main types of these systems.

Drip Irrigation Systems: Mainly used for orchard crops, the water drips gently out of the pipe onto a designated location.

Micro-Sprinkler: Similar to a Drip Irrigation system, this set up has very small sprinklers that spray a fine mist onto a designated area.



Harrison, Kerry. “Factors to Consider in Selecting a Farm Irrigation System.” University of Georgia Extension

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