Irrigation 101

An Irrigation system requires a water source, a method to transport the water and a method to distribute the water to the soil. Irrigation is used to supplement water during dry periods, increase productivity of coarse soils (sandy), improve the crop quality of water-sensitive crops and reduce risk of crop loss. Sprinkler irrigation is the most widely used distribution method. The center pivot irrigation system is the workhorse of the industry. A typical center pivot system will cost about $1000 per acre to install (well and center pivot). If one is looking to reduce risk of crop loss for the occasional dry growing season, crop insurance will likely be cheaper than an irrigation system that is used infrequently. Below are resources to help evaluate whether an irrigation system is practical and economic for your operation and what type would best fit your crop mix and cultivation practices. Click on the title of each publication or resource to go to the link and read or download the information.

General Irrigation

  • Factors to Consider in Selecting a Farm Irrigation System,  by Wesley Porter, University of Georgia Extension publication No. 882.
  • Selecting a Sprinkler Irrigation System, by T. Scherer, North Dakota State University Extension publication AE-91.
  • Planning to Irrigate: A Checklist, by T. Scherer, North Dakota State University Extension publication AE-92.
  • Irrigation 101-Basics of Irrigation Systems and Water Resources, by S. Sanford, University of Wisconsin-Madison. If you are not currently an irrigator but are thinking about purchasing a system, this video will provide you with the basic system components (water sources, pumping systems, piping, distribution/application methods and system controls). The discussion includes the advantages and disadvantages of different well and pump types along with different types of water delivery systems (sprinkler and drip). The approximate costs for equipment and operation of various types of systems is also included.

Economics of Irrigation, including Lease Agreements

Energy use