If drip irrigation waters the roots of your plants, and sprinkler irrigation waters from above, then surface irrigation is somewhere in between. While there are various different forms of surface irrigation, it suffices to say that they take advantage of gravity and the shape of the land to “flood” the soil. Imagine a very gradual slope — if you pour water on it, it will trickle down, even if the slope is negligible. This is the concept behind surface irrigation — gently pouring water onto the ground, and allowing it to naturally distribute itself across your soil.
Advantages of Surface Irrigation:
Easiest and Cheapest: Surface irrigation is the most ancient irrigation technique and doesn’t require sophisticated technology to work. While modern hands have greatly improved the process, providing for advanced technology that refines surface irrigation to a tee, the bottom line is that you have a lot of variety, and if you want something that’s cheap and easy, you have that option.
Best Utilization of Rain Water: With surface irrigation systems, you’ve generally made changes to your land to provide for it. It really just comes down to shaping your property in a way to where natural water flow reliably irrigates your plants. For that reason, surface irrigation plots are very effective at utilizing rainwater; the land has already been optimized for water flow.
Disadvantages of Surface Irrigation:
Dependent on Your Terrain: For surface irrigation to work, you have to make your terrain accommodate for it, whether it’s by creating furrows to channel the water through, or depending on a slight natural slope to let gravity do its work. Unexpected changes or disturbances in your land could disrupt the effectiveness of this irrigation.
Waterlogging: One risk that surface irrigation has is channeling too much water into your crops, which can drown the roots and be counterproductive. Care has to be taken to ensure that your surface irrigation system doesn’t overwhelm your plants with water.