Let’s start with simple definition of irrigation:

The application of water to a crop, beyond what is provided by naturally by rain.

Irrigation falls into two main categories:

Non-pressurized irrigation

Canal/surface systems that flood the fields. High volume water application, less frequently.

Low efficiency – only 60% efficiency of water use (Food and Agriculture Organization – FAO)

Poorer agronomic results.

Pressurized irrigation

Water is delivered, under pressure, via piping to water emission devices.

Pressurized irrigation is either:

Sprinkler/spray irrigation

Water is sprayed via a nozzle or a spinner.

Flows rates generally range from 20 l/h (5 gph) for a micro-sprinkler, through to thousands of liters per minute for a gun irrigator.

Moderate efficiency – 75% efficiency of water use (FAO)

Drip irrigation

Water discharges from a drip emitter.

Application rates are low (generally 0.5–4.0 l/h (0.13–1.0 gph) per drip emitter) and are frequently applied.

The most efficient irrigation method – 90% efficiency of water use (FAO)

Best agronomic performance.

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