What is Sub-Irrigation?

Harriette Halepis

Sub-irrigation is a type of irrigation method that provides water to a plant from beneath the soil surface. This type of irrigation is also called "seepage irrigation," and it is often used to grow field crops. Tomatoes, peppers, and sugar cane are often watered in this way. In addition, house plants can be maintained using this type of irrigation.

Tomatoes are often watered via sub-irrigation.
Tomatoes are often watered via sub-irrigation.

Many plant experts agree that taking care of house plants is easier to do with the help of sub-irrigation. Rather than watering plants from the top, this method allows plant owners to use a self-watering plant system. Creating a small reservoir of water in the bottom of a plant container allows a plant to soak up water as needed. Unlike the above-watering process, watering a plant from the bottom of a container is easier on the plant.

Peppers may be watered using sub-irrigation methods.
Peppers may be watered using sub-irrigation methods.

When seepage irrigation is used in a field, a field's water table must be manually raised in order for a farmer to feed crops from below the soil line. The water table refers to the level of the groundwater pressure when compared with the atmospheric pressure. Farms that use sub-irrigation techniques often maintain this type of irrigation through pumping stations, canals, gates, and weirs that lower or raise the water level accordingly.

Greenhouse plants are often watered using the sub-irrigation method.
Greenhouse plants are often watered using the sub-irrigation method.

This method of irrigation is also widely used in greenhouses, as potted plants are often watered from below. The excess water is then recycled in order to feed other plants in the same manner. Most professional gardeners prefer to maintain plants using this form of irrigation, since they tend to respond better than to other watering methods.

Farmers may hydrate crops grown in dry climates using the sub-irrigation method.
Farmers may hydrate crops grown in dry climates using the sub-irrigation method.

Since plants naturally absorb water from the roots upwards, this method of irrigation makes a lot of sense. Watering a plant by dropping water onto it from above will work, though this is not a natural way to keep plants well-hydrated. In fact, this may be the main reason why many plant owners have a hard time keeping plants alive. Sometimes, watering a plant from above can be damaging to the plant and even cause dehydration.

Farmers have been using sub-irrigation techniques for decades. Frequently, it is the only way to hydrate certain crops that must be grown in dry climates. Through this type of irrigation, farmers can control the amount of water that a field of crops receives and not have to worry about water being sprayed on top of the soil evaporating before it can benefit the plants. While relying on Mother Nature is one way to tend to crops, seepage irrigation is often the best way for commercial farms to ensure proper hydration.

Sugar cane is often grown with sub-irrigation.
Sugar cane is often grown with sub-irrigation.

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Discussion Comments

anon146010

Watering plants from above is unnatural? Are you kidding me? Which way do you think the rain falls? It doesn't matter which way the water gets to the soil, as long as it gets to it, and in the right amount. The roots will absorb it either way.

Consider the cons of sub-irrigation for indoor plants. How many people are going to keep the reservoir constantly filled, which will only promote the development of disease?

Get your facts straight before you pass crap on to unknowing people.

anon90900

Seepage Irrigation is old technology. Try googling the word IBIS irrigation and realize that agricultural irrigation need not use drinking water. My system allows them to use reclaimed wastewater with no runoff, wind drift or evaporation losses. It also recycles any collectible excess for reuse.

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