Description of practice

Surface irrigation is a technique where water is applied to the soil surface and distributed by gravity. This is the most common form of irrigation, in many parts of the world virtually unchanged for thousands of years. However, the water distribution is uncontrolled and therefore inherently inefficient.

Examples of how to use surface irrigation Further information
(see Note below)

AMP52 01b

Furrow irrigation

In furrow irrigation small parallel channels are constructed along the field length in the direction of the predominant slope. Water is applied to the top end of each furrow and flows down the field.


»Wikipedia Surface irrigation

AMP52 02

Level basin irrigation

Water is applied rapidly to the entire basin and it is allowed to infiltrate. Level basin irrigation is favoured in soils with relatively low infiltration rates.


»Wikipedia Surface irrigation


AMP52 03

Border irrigation

A field is divided into strips (usually from 6 to 30 m wide) separated by border ridges running down the slope. The area between the ridges is flooded during irrigation.



AMP52 04

Laser leveling of fields

Preparation of fields for irrigation with the use of a laser planner ensures uniform surface leveling. Water is distributed equally across the field providing water savings and increased yield.


»WOCAT technology 3634

AMP52 05

Surge irrigation

Water is pulsed on and off according to a planned schedule rather than being supplied constantly. Surge irrigation is an advanced variant of furrow irrigation.


»Oregon State University

AMP52 06

Furrow irrigation with alternating dry and wet furrows

Dry and watered furrows are rotated. In limited water conditions, irrigation with alternating furrows is an effective way to reduce water use while maintaining crops in good vegetative state.


»WOCAT technology 3646

AMP52 07

Contour basins

The field is divided into a number of terraced rectangular bays. Water is applied to the highest bay and cascades downhill through consecutive bays. Contour basins are a variant of basin irrigation.


»WOCAT technology 943

Note: Most of the Further information links are to a full description of the example in the WOCAT database. However sometimes the link may be to similar practices or a research paper. Occasionally the link is to a commercial product in which case it should be understood that this does not imply any endorsement of the product by iSQAPER.

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