What is the least complex form of irrigation?

By: HowStuffWorks.com Contributors

Surface irrigation is a straightforward approach to irrigation that doesn't try to prevent the natural flooding of fields. This irrigation method is generally only suitable for use on land that will either be used for recreational purposes or grazing. Surface irrigation is also appropriate to use when there isn't much value to the crops that are growing on a piece of land. A key feature of surface irrigation is that it's completely dependent on a specific water source.

One variation of surface irrigation is a technique called basin irrigation. While all surface-irrigation methods rely on a plentiful water supply, basin irrigation is particularly well-suited for crops that have deep roots and are closely spaced. A common example of basin irrigation in action is the use of paddy fields to grow rice. The field, or basin, is enclosed with a dike that contains the water. Pipelines and channels are used in order to direct the water into the field. Once transported to the field, the water causes the basin's bottom to become muddy. After flooding has taken place, this muddy area is used to plant fresh seedlings since the mud is especially fertile and rich.


Another type of surface-irrigation technique is border irrigation; it's similar to the basin method but border irrigation doesn't completely enclose the field with a dike. Rather, water is supplied on one side of the field and drained from the other. Border irrigation is most effective when used on sloping land. Yet another form of surface irrigation is furrow irrigation, which is also commonly used on sloping land. Water is even more tightly controlled with this method, since it uses channels that are located within the field. This type of control enables the farmer to decide how much water each section of the land is to receive.