The main goal for irrigation is to provide the plants with the proper amount of water at the best time. Good irrigation will influence the entire growth process from seedbed preparation, germination, root growth, nutrient utilization, plant growth and regrowth, yield and quality. Irrigation systems refer to the equipment required to provide water to plants.

The key to maximizing irrigation efforts is uniformity. The producer has a lot of control over how much water to supply and when to apply it but the irrigation system has the control in providing water uniformly. Determining which irrigation systems is best for your operation requires a knowledge of which system will provide uniform distribution for your land. Irrigation systems should encourage plant growth while minimizing salt imbalances, leaf burns, soil erosion, and water loss. Loss will occur above and below the plant due to evaporation, wind drift, and run-off above the soil and water sinking deep below roots.

An irrigation system considers four questions: how much water is required, when will water be distributed, what materials are needed, and what is the most efficient and feasible design? Irrigation systems are usually gravity driven or pressurized. The gravity driven options can be called surface irrigation while pressurized systems are usually sprinklers or drip systems.

Surface irrigation systems consist of water being applied in furrows, basins or flooded over the surface. These systems can be useful if water is sufficient. They require labor but little equipment. Surface irrigation has a lot of water loss and poor uniformity, although uniformity can be improved with various strategies.

Sprinkler systems are the most common pressurized version. They are much less labor intensive but require a lot of equipment and energy. The benefits include greater control over application rates, amounts, and timings. This control should reduce water loss and soil erosion, prevent frost damage, and add humidity for better plant growth. Sprinklers can be stationary, portable, semiportable, solid, or mobile. The stationary or solid sets cost more in initial investment by they require less subsequent labor. The balance between cost for equipment and labor must be evaluated. The various option can prove versatile for use on various topographies. Sprinkler irrigation systems include center-pivots, side-rolls, traveling guns, boom sprinklers, and traveling lateral systems.

Drip irrigation systems are designed to deliver water directly to the soil surround the roots on a frequent basis yet allows more efficient infiltration of water into the soil surrounding the plant roots. The lengthy infiltration period and frequent watering can result in optimal plant growth and regrowth. This type of system is productive by costly since it requires extensive pipes and/or hoses to apply the water. System design is critical to making drip systems work. Good design will mean less water loss, less leaf and tissue damage, fewer plant pathogens, and higher yields. Drip systems can provide the best uniformity but require the most materials.