Potato production systems with abundant rainfall during the growing season do not depend on irrigation. Summer crops with severe and systematic lack of rain however, make potato production only profitable when irrigated. These are found in New Zealand, Tasmania, South Africa, Argentina, southern Europe and parts of northern Europe stretching from the North of France and England to the North of the UK.
Typical potato cropping systems where potato can only be grown if irrigated are the rice-wheat-potato systems belt which is found in regions like North Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Vietnam, Madagascar and Senegal in West Africa, where potato is grown in the rainless winter. Also, in desert climates such as in Saudi Arabia (deep well artesian water as source) and in the oases of the Sahara (surfacing underground rivers), in Egypt (water from the Nile) and in the coastal desert of Peru and Chile (water from rivers from the Andes), potato is only grown as an irrigated crops.
In Mediterranean climates with some rain in the beginning of the spring growing season in the Middle, North and South Africa, southern Europe, North Mexico, the Northern USA and the center of the southern cone of South America only exist because the crops are irrigated. In semi-deserts such as in the North- West of the USA and in the highlands of the Middle East and in Central Asia stretching all the way to Inner Mongolia, potato summer production is only possible when irrigation water and an infrastructure to carry the water to the potato fields are present.
The most labor-intensive irrigation method is hand-watering from an open water system such as a shallow pit or stream. Next in labor intensity and only applied in a relatively small-scale subsistence farming is hosing with water drawn by gravity from elevated sources, from the mains or pumped upward from a well. Most irrigated crops, however, are watered through furrow, sprinkler and drip irrigation systems.
In most potato growing environments in the world, even in rain-fed regions there often is a precipitation deficit during the growing season. Where drought is severe, irrigation is applied whenever possible.
Check chapter 5 of our Potato handbook for more information about furrow, sprinkler and drip irrigation systems.
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