Furrow Irrigation : Definition, Slopes, Applications & advantages

Continue reading to learn everything there is to know about furrow irrigation and what to consider when selecting soil for furrow irrigation projects.

The driving force behind furrow (or ridge-furrow) irrigation is gravitational pull. Water is directed downhill through terraced fields using ripples and furrows. Flat, easily graded ground provides the best conditions for using a furrow system.

This method, however, is not recommended for use on slopes or undulating fields. Water is directed into channels rather than pooling around the plant’s roots and stems, where it could cause rot or disease, when crops are grown atop ridges.

Furrow irrigation works well for a wide range of crops, particularly row crops. Furrows are an excellent method for watering plants that would perish if water accumulated at their crown or stem. Tree crops may also benefit from furrow irrigation. One furrow beside the tree row may be sufficient at first, but as the trees grow, two or more furrows will be required to provide adequate water.

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Slopes with furrow irrigation

A uniformly level or gently sloping surface is ideal for furrow irrigation. This percentage cannot exceed 0.5%. Following irrigation or heavy rain, a minor furrow slope of up to 0.05% is frequently applied to aid drainage. The majority of soils are suitable for use with furrows. However, as with other surface irrigation systems, excessively coarse sands are not recommended because percolation losses may be significant.

Erosion is an unavoidable side effect of furrow irrigation. The problem is exacerbated by the need for longer fields to increase agricultural productivity and the practise of “clean tillage,” which is required to ensure a consistent and even flow of water through the furrow. Using furrow irrigation, water is channelled through furrows 0.1 to 0.3 metres wide and evenly placed over fields with a gradient of 0.1 to 3%.


furrow irrigation

Irrigation lasts 12-24 hours, depending on furrow length, soil, water, and management factors. To prevent soil erosion on steeper slopes (more than 1%), the flow rate must be carefully maintained. To get the necessary amount of water into soils with low infiltration rates, irrigation may need to last longer and have lower input rates.

Furrow irrigation has become the norm in many areas for these two main reasons. They save money on irrigation while ensuring a larger harvest.

Furrow irrigation requires less money, less expertise, and more work than other types of irrigation. Fields can be watered without having to grade or level them because water can be channelled through furrows.


Considerations for furrow irrigation

When selecting soil for furrow irrigation projects, the most important factor to consider is soil aggregating capacity. It can be used for furrow irrigation if it does not soften too much when wet. Sandier soils are the worst choice because water cannot be controlled. Furrow irrigation is likely to be effective for the majority of fruits and vegetables. This procedure is extremely useful when the roots require water but any contact with the stem or other parts would be harmful.

There is no standard practise for furrow irrigation on sloping fields. To account for the soil type, some adjustments are still required. Dig deep and make your furrows thin when working with sandy soil. This is because sandy soil is easier to penetrate than other types of soil. For sandy soil, deep and narrow furrows are recommended.

The reasoning behind this is that more water in contact with the soil results in better wetting. Water retention can be improved by widening and deepening the furrows in response to increased water flow.




The greatest and lowest slopes of the soil will determine the length of the slope. A furrow can be made longer when working with a higher grade. The furrow will be shallower if the soil is sandy. A very clay-like soil can be used as a foundation for building on top of. To prevent soil erosion, water flow should be limited to no more than three litres per second and no less than 0.5 litres per second.

Because the ability of a furrow to store water increases with depth, a deeper furrow can support a greater volume of water and a longer irrigation system. Consider shortening the furrows when you need to cultivate your land on a regular basis. Minor adjustments to the recommended size may be required depending on the dimensions of the field.


How to Use 

Furrowing on level or gently sloping ground:

  • To draw lines in the field, ranging poles or chalk powder are used.
  • Along the outlined path, straight ridge movement occurs. If the field is not straight, it must be ploughed again.
  • New parallel lines should be drawn every five metres. You can make four parallel furrows in one pass with a tractor and a ridge-drawbar.



Creating a furrow on sloping or undulating terrain:


  • To begin, direct the furrow along the top border of the field, not too far from the farm channel, using a levelling instrument to find the contour line.
  • Guide furrows are laid out every five metres on undulating terrain and every ten metres on uniformly sloped land.
  • Furrows are dug halfway to the next guide furrow.


The Advantages of Furrow Irrigation

  • A large area can be quickly irrigated.
  • Efficient method of saving time and effort.
  • The low initial investment in necessary equipment.
  • Because of the small amount of water lost in gravity irrigation, this is a very cost-effective strategy.
  • Savings may be realised as a result of the lower per-unit cost of pumped water.
  • There is a method for reusing the water lost during irrigation.
  • Potential to significantly reduce the number of chemicals leaching into the environment.







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