Make irrigation easier with these 3 simple steps

No matter what type of farm you have, we guarantee that there will be ways you can make your irrigation more efficient and easier for you. When irrigation takes less time and effort your crops can grow healthier, and you can be happier.

Although every farm is different and what will work best for your situation will depend on a few factors (farm size, budget, water needs, soil type, and irrigation type) there are many tips and tricks you can try and test to see which works for you.

Step 1: Make a plan

Whatever farm you have, establishing where your current challenges are and where you want to make improvements is a crucial first step.

How do you know where your biggest improvements can be made if you have not measured what you currently do?

Collins interveiws a Futurepump customer in the field to get his feedback on the product

That’s why first off, we suggest creating a plan and getting your records up to date. Set out your goals (think as big as you like!), assess your land and decide on your crops and budget. This is important because different crops have different water requirements, so this is really helpful to decide hand in hand.

Once you have decided these things you can start looking into which water pumps and irrigation solutions would work best for you and your farm. Going to your local agrovet with clear requirements will help them assist you in choosing the best irrigation system for your situation.

This plan should include details on:

  1. What your water source is
  2. How high you need to pump water (up to the surface and beyond)
  3. The area of land you want to irrigate
  4. The approximate water requirements of your crops
  5. A predication on how often your crops will need water
  6. Your budget available for irrigation

Step 2: It’s time to get your water moving

One of the biggest struggles with irrigation is the energy it takes to move water. Water pumps are an excellent way to take the strain and speed up moving water to your crops.

There are many different types of water pump available, this means that you can really choose the pump that is best for your specific situation.

You can get specific advice for your farm situation from your local pump distributor; however, we will cover some of the main points here. The key differences between types of water pump are the amount of water they can pump, what provides their power and how long they will last.

Manual water pumps: These treadle pumps require you to physically move the pump to lift the water. They are cheap and widely available but take a lot of your time and energy to move water. For these reasons, flowrates are often low for these pumps.

Fossil fuel pumps: These pumps use petrol or diesel to power them and can move large volumes of water. They are widely available, but require constant fuel, maintenance, and servicing – often these pumps have a short lifespan.

Solar water pumps: These use solar panels for power, so there are no fuel costs and little maintenance is needed, many even come with multi-year warranties. There is a wide range of capacities available, but they can have higher start-up costs (but this is changing!).

For a more detailed look at the different water pumps available and how they could help you check out our blog ‘What are water pumps for irrigation?’

Step 3: Get the water to your crops in the most efficient way

Now you’re ready to start investigating how to actually irrigate your crops. Here you will find many options to choose from to fit your needs, farm and budget!

Planning out your irrigation and choosing the most efficient type that works for you will make your job easier and improve the quality of your crops. It is a win-win.

Where many farmers begin is by using simple irrigation methods, such as buckets and hoses. This can be a good place to start as these methods are readily available and easy to set up. However, they are not very efficient – you may find that the quality of your crops suffers as it takes up more of your time moving the water from plant to plant.

This is why we recommend looking at more targeted forms and mechanised forms of irrigation. These will take up less of your time and deliver water more efficiently to your crops.

Sprinklers and drip are both popular options with smallholder farmers. And there are good reasons for it! Sprinklers are cheap and easy to use. Drip is very efficient so you can get high-quality harvests whilst using less water.

Using your list you prepared in your planning stage you will need to take some time to research the different options available to you and what will work best.

Consider your irrigation needs and compare this to the most common types of irrigation we list in the table below. For more details on each of these options, check out our blog on irrigation options for smallholder farmers.

Irrigation TypeAdvantagesDisadvantages
1. SprinklersRelatively cheap
Easy to set up and use
Not labour intensive
Can cover a large area
Not the most efficient
Need to buy sprinklers
2. DripVery efficient
Direct, gentle irrigation
Not labour intensive
Can cover a large area
Expensive start-up costs
More difficult set up
3. MistEfficient
Not labour intensive
Can cover a large area
Expensive start-up costs
More difficult to set up
4. ManualCheapest option
Easy access
Labour intensive
Time consuming
Not suitable for large areas
Less efficient
5. Furrow / Flood Not expensive
Easy access
Can cover a large area
Less efficient

Get more details

If you want to delve deeper into some of the factors affecting irrigation on your farm, check out our other blogs that go into more detail on creating a plan, assessing your soils, water efficiency, the difference between water pumps and irrigation types.

If you have any questions about making irrigation easier on your farm or have tips for other farmers do let us know via social media!

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