The purpose of irrigation is to supplement naturalprecipitation so that moisture requirements of cropsbeing grown are met. Crop response to irrigationvaries with soils, fertility, type of plants, stage of growth, and local climate. Where crop stress causedby moisture shortage is prevented by proper andtimely irrigation, other factors can become inhibitorsto desirable yield and quality.Knowledge of how plants respond to, and use, soilwater throughout their growing season is essential tosuccessfully design and manage an irrigation system.Continuous plant uptake of soil nutrients has a poten-tial for improving ground water quality. Profitable cropproduction is generally the objective of agriculture.With proper management, soils (or water) affected bysalinity or sodicity can sustain plant growth in perpe-tuity. Irrigation provides the insurance for high qualityand desirable quantity crops at reduced risk in semi-arid, subhumid, and humid areas. It is a necessity inarid regions. The effect of irrigation both onsite andoffsite on soil, water, air, plant, and animal resourcesalong with human considerations needs to be consid-ered.
For desirable crop growth, good soil condition is keyto optimum soil aeration, water infiltration, permeabil-ity, and uniform root development. It also helps reducerunoff and potential soil erosion. Good soil conditioncan be maintained or improved by eliminating excesstillage operations, avoiding field operations while soil-water content is high, using organic material or cropresidue, and using grass and legumes in rotation. Toreduce opportunity of soil compaction on irrigatedpastures, livestock should be excluded during andafter irrigation until adequate soil surface dry-outoccurs.
A healthy plant uses water more efficiently than aplant that lacks nutrients and trace elements. Totalwater use by a healthy plant is greater than that for aplant deprived of nutrients. However, the yield per unitof water is much greater for healthy plants.Soil fertility is maintained with proper nutrient man-agement by maintaining proper soil reaction (pH level)and by using an appropriate cropping system. Limingmay be needed on acid soil. On saline soils, leaching of excess salts is generally needed. On sodic soils, bothsoil amendments and leaching may be needed. Soiltests, field observations, planned yield and quality, andfield experience help determine the type and amountof fertilizers and other elements to use. Using excessfertilizer or poor application timing can result inmovement of chemicals below the root zone into theground water or off the field.
(c)Soil, water, pest, nutrient, andcrop residue management
Optimum production requires the operator to controlweeds and insects, use high quality seed of adaptedvarieties, apply fertilizer according to plant needs, andpractice good soil and water management during allparts of the growing season. Crops grown should beselected to fit the soil, water, climate, irrigation sys-tem, farm equipment, and market availability. Plantpopulation can generally be increased when practicinggood soil, water, pesticide, nutrient, and crop residuemanagement.