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Large-scale, systematic watering of crops in the field is called irrigation. The soil must be adequately moist during the sowing of seeds. Proper irrigation begins when seedlings have anchored themselves firmly in the soil. The following points have to be considered during irrigation:

1. A proper canal system from a source like a well, pond, lake, tank, river, etc. has to be made. Care has to be taken that the water gets distributed uniformly and slowly. Gushing water can uproot seedlings.

2. Different crops need different amounts of water. For example, paddy needs continuous irrigation, while gram and wheat do not.

3. The water requirement of the plants also changes with season.

4. Crops require specific amount of water during different growth periods. For example, seedlings of rice need  ankle-deep water whereas grown up rice plants do not need so much water. Again, in the case of wheat, excess water given to a mature crop (as it sometimes happens due to untimely rains) can lead to falling of the crop, called lodging. It also results in blackening of the seeds and affects their lustre.

5. Irrigation depends upon soil permeability. Sandy soil has less water holding capacity and hence requires frequent irrigation. Clayey soil, being more compact, needs less frequent irrigation as it has better water-holding capacity.

6. Water logging (with the exception of crops that require it, e.g. paddy) must be avoided for most crops. This is because, regardless of the source, water contains dissolved salts. Water logging leads to accumulation of salts on the soil surface after the water evaporates. This damages the plants, besides the fact that roots start rotting if they remain in water logged fields for two to three days.


Advantages of Irrigation 


They can be listed as follows:

1. Vast areas of land can be brought under irrigation (61.4 million hectares in India).

2. Irrigated areas are less susceptible to drought.

3. Crop yield per hectare is nearly four times greater than in an unirrigated land.

4. Even in the absence of ponds, wells or subsoil water as in deserts, water can be brought from the nearest river by constructing canals, e.g. the Rajasthan Canal.

5. Most of our recent success in increased crop production in spite of repeated failure of the monsoon has been due to better irrigation facilities.

Types of Irrigation

Our country has a wide variety of water resources and a highly varied climate. Due to such prevailing conditions, we adopt several kinds of irrigation systems to supply water to agricultural lands depending on the kinds of water resources available. The four main type of irrigation system in common practice are well, canal, river and tank irrigation system.

Well Irrigation

Wells are of two types; they are dug wells and tube wells. In a dug well, water is collected from water bearing strata. Tube wells can tap water from the deeper strata. Underground water is tapped for irrigating the cultivated land. From these wells, water is lifted by pumps for irrigation.

Canal Irrigation

In this system, canals receive water from one or more reservoirs or from rivers. The main canal is divided into branch canals having further distributaries to irrigate fields.

Rivers Lift Systems

This type of irrigation is followed in areas where canal flow is insufficient or irregular due to inadequate reservoir release. Water is directly drawn from the rivers for supplementing irrigation in areas close to rivers.

Tank Irrigation System

Tanks are small storage reservoirs, which intercept and store the run-off of smaller catchment areas.

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