Overwatering can have severe consequences to both your crops and your wallet, and uneven underwatering can result in even worse damage to your agriculture. There are many factors to take into consideration when it comes to irrigating here in Western North Carolina, such as crop type, soil type, field topography, and available water. For large fields, irrigation can generally be broken into two main categories — overhead irrigation and drip irrigation. Both of these systems can be classified as “mechanized irrigation,” meaning that water is dispersed through the aid of machinery such as pumps. 

Through many years of business, our staff here at Gra-Mac has developed an expansive knowledge of irrigation solutions for a variety of applications. While this article provides a brief overview of the efficiency of different types of irrigation systems, we would be happy to speak with you in depth about your watering and equipment needs. Give us a call

Drip Irrigation

Because drip irrigation is a system that is designed to only irrigate the root zone, most people in the agriculture industry will tell you that this makes it the most efficient type of irrigation. By slowly applying water drop by drop to the root zone, this gives the soil a chance to absorb the water before it evaporates or is lost in runoff. The water is pushed through a system of perforated tubes using a pump, and can also be applied to crops as a mist, depending on the type of system.

By localizing the water placement directly on the root zone, plants are able to receive moisture where they need it most, which makes this technique the most effective solution for conserving water. Drip irrigation systems can also be combined with soil sensors, so that crops are only receiving moisture when the soil needs it. For example, after heavy rains, the drip irrigation pumps can automatically turn off until the soil sensors indicate that more water is needed at the root of the plants. 

Subsurface Drip Irrigation

Subsurface drip irrigation is a specialized type of irrigation where the hoses are actually placed under the ground. For those concerned with water evaporation, subsurface drip irrigation is an excellent solution as it yields essentially no evaporation at all. While any form of drip irrigation system is relatively inexpensive, the primary problem with subsurface systems is that it is very hard to tell when a system has become damaged, and repairing the system is a difficult process. Water uniformity can also be impacted over multiple years of use with any drip irrigation system, but what these systems lack in durability, they make up for in efficiency. 

Overhead Irrigation

Overhead irrigation comes in several forms, either as a center pivot or linear system, and even impact sprinklers and big guns can fall into this category. Despite the size of these machines, overhead irrigation can often be less involved than drip irrigation due to the ease of installation and ability to move the systems around frequently. This is also a preferred method when it comes to applying chemicals and fertilizers to a field. Overhead systems also boast the fact that they are unable to be clogged with dirt, which can occasionally happen with drip systems. They are able to be installed fairly quickly, and don’t require the meticulous attention to detail that is required in installing a drip irrigation system. 

However, because of this, there is a greater percentage of water lost due to evaporation and runoff. For some, the longevity and adaptability of overhead irrigation systems outweigh the problem of lower efficiency. There are many factors that would need to be considered when making that decision, with the field size being the biggest. For very large areas, it doesn’t always make the most sense to install drip irrigation systems. 

Contact Gra-Mac Irrigation Today

If you have been tossing around the idea of installing a new irrigation system, it is important to do your research and thoroughly weigh the pros and cons of each type of system. If you have any unanswered questions about pumps, engines, valves, or any of the products and services that we offer here at Gra-Mac, we would be happy to speak with you. Contact us today!