Furrow Irrigation Pros and Cons List

Furrow irrigation is a form of surface irrigation where agricultural workers dig trenches that allow water to flow through a field. Most systems only use gravity to push the water down each line, allowing it to seep horizontally and vertically to ensure the soil reservoir retains the moisture that is necessary for growth. Each furrow can be individually controlled to achieve specific results, or the entire field can receive the water that it needs.

List of the Pros of Furrow Irrigation

1. The cost of deployment is minimal with furrow irrigation.
Because this system of irrigation uses gravity to distribute water most of the time, the overall cost of deployment is much lower than it would be for other systems. Farms only need the infrastructure in place to deliver moisture to the field. Each trench can be controlled manually to keep costs down, although automated equipment is available for this process as well.

2. It encourages the process of photosynthesis more effectively.
Because the plants are not being sprayed with water, they can achieve higher levels of photosynthesis because there are fewer blockages in place. Even the lower leaves can achieve this process in the early stages of growth thanks to the additional light access that the furrows provide.

3. You are not limited by weather conditions with furrow irrigation.
If you were to spray water onto a field during a windy day, then there is no guarantee on where the moisture will eventually land. When the liquid moves through the trenches of furrow irrigation instead, then gravity pushes the water along to ensure each row receives the water that it requires.

4. There are lower energy costs associated with this method.
Farmers use furrow irrigation to flood their fields so that their crops receive the moisture they require for a successful season. Because this process can be manually produced after installation, there are minimal energy costs to consider when bringing moisture to where it is needed. Even if an automated system is in place, it takes less energy to provide coverage for a farmer’s property with this method compared to other systems.

List of the Cons of Furrow Irrigation

1. Furrow irrigation can result in standing water.
There are times when gravity doesn’t pull the water along the entire trench because there isn’t enough liquid available. This issue can result in the presence of standing water, which could reduce the respiration of the roots if there is too much moisture available. It can also promote the growth of mold and algae or encourage higher levels of insect activity which could harm the crop as well.

2. It may require changes to the field structure to be successful.
The trenches that make furrow irrigation possible are dependent on the slop of the field for a successful experience. Farmers can create an artificial descent for the water using their trenching equipment, but it can be a process that is time-intensive and expensive to complete in some regions. If there is not enough downward motion in the field, then this disadvantage could cause the system to fail for the plants at the furthest end of each row.

3. This system can promote soil erosion within the field.
Water movement can cause the soil in and around the trenches to begin eroding over time if the irrigation efforts are frequent. This issue may cause more nutrients to reach the plants at the end of the row instead of at the beginning, which may create uneven yields for some farmers. Although the roots of the plan will benefit from the added moisture, the increased health does not always equate to improved production.

4. There can still be a loss of water which occurs.
Because the water flows through the trenches in a furrow irrigation system, there will always be some moisture loss due to evaporation. Surface techniques can also lose some of their total capacity due to the effects of percolation in the system. In the western United States, this disadvantage hits twice because it can lead to salt buildup in the soil since local waters typically have a higher saline content than those to the east. Frequent flooding can eventually ruin the capacity of the soil to support production.

The pros and cons of furrow irrigation make it possible to increase yields while minimizing costs for farmers, although there are some specific issues that must be corrected first in some locations to maximize the impact of this process.