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Surface Irrigation | Types and Specifications of Surface Irrigation

Surface irrigation is the supply of water to the plants on the surface. It is where water is applied and distributed over the soil surface by gravity. It has been practised in many areas virtually unchanged for thousands of years. It is the most common, economical and simple irrigation method and adopted all over the world.

The basic concept of irrigation can be checked here. Basically, there are 3 types of irrigation methods. They are surface, subsurface irrigation and sprinkler irrigation.

Surface Irrigation

It includes the group of water application methods in which water is applied and distributed over the soil surface either by gravity or pumping. More than 75% of irrigation in India is done through various types of surface irrigation techniques. It is best suited for soils having low to moderate infiltration capacities.

They can be classified into 3 types - Flooding, Furrow Method and Contour Farming.


Flooding is the type of surface irrigation, which means the direct application of water to the field.

There are two types of flooding, called

  1. Uncontrolled/Wild Flooding: Quantity and the direction of flow is not under the control

  2. Controlled/Free flooding: Controlled distribution of water from the outlet. Again in controlled flooding, there are various types of irrigation methods possible.

Controlled flooding is again of various types, which is well represented in the above flow chart. The important controlled flooding irrigation types are discussed below.

  • Border/Strip Irrigation: Strips of earth bunds/levees are constructed. Water then supplied from the ditch to the field. Lengths of strips may vary around 100-400 m. Space between the strips may vary around 10-20 m. The slope of the strips should be less than 2%.

  • Check Irrigation: This type of irrigation is adopted when there are levelled agricultural lands. The lands are enclosed by the bunds. In the land, water gets stagnated for a long duration.

  • Basin Flood Irrigation: This is a special type of check irrigation. Basins are formed instead of level plots. Irrigation of Orchard trees is one of the examples of basin flood irrigation.

Furrow Irrigation

Small channels of water are called furrows. In this type of irrigation, the plant is not in contact with water directly. ⅕th to ½ nd of the land gets wetted, so less possibility of evaporation. It is used for crops like Maize

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