Hemp is one of the oldest crops in America. It played a key role in the survival of early colonists and was a favorite crop of the founding fathers. However, since the middle of the 20th century, federal prohibitions have restricted the production of the plant due to its relation to marijuana. But with the signing of the Agricultural Improvement Act of 2018 comes the federal legalization of commercial hemp.

Despite federal restrictions, hemp cultivation saw remarkable growth in the past decade. In 2014, the U.S. industrial hemp market size was an estimated $504 million. In 2017, it surpassed $820 million domestically. And the global hemp market size is projected to top $10 billion by 2025!

This exciting “new” crop has drawn waves of entrepreneurs looking to capitalize on an emerging industry and take part in the innovation. However, the influx of entrepreneurs to hemp cultivation means there is a lack of farming experience and know-how, especially when it comes to this green plant. In this article, we’ll provide an overview of one area in which many new farmers often seek guidance: Irrigation.


Although it’s been touted as a drought-resistant plant, hemp requires more water than some of its advocate claim. Researchers at Colorado State University contend that hemp typically requires at least 25-30 inches of rainfall during the growing season, slightly more than corn and soybeans. An amount of water that most states, especially in the western part of the country, lack.

Irrigation systems, therefore, will be a necessary practice for many hemp farmers. The researchers at CSU found that irrigated hemp fields produced nearly three times the yield of non-irrigated Colorado fields. Deciding exactly what type of irrigation system can be a daunting task, especially for farmers who are new to the industry. By providing an overview of the many types of irrigation systems, we hope to make the task seem a little less so.

Irrigation Systems

Center pivot irrigation systems are one of the most commonly used. As the name suggests, the sprinkler system rotates around a pivot point located at the center of the field. Circular or square shaped fields are most appropriate for this system. Central pivots are frequently fitted with an end gun to extend its radius by an additional hundred feet or so. This is especially useful to reach the corners of square fields.

Linear Move systems are similar to center pivot systems. However, rather than rotating around a central fulcrum, the sprinkler system moves laterally across the length of the field. The linear move is best suited for rectangular fields with a length to width ratio of at least 2:1 and minimal slope. It also requires a complex guidance system to keep it on a straight line, making it more labor intensive than the central pivot.

The traveling gun system is, again, just as the name suggests: a giant water gun mounted on a cart. These guns can irrigate a radius around 100-250 feet but due to the length of hose, it requires higher operating pressure.

Solid set and permanent set systems are best for smaller fields. Solid set systems use sprinklers set atop above ground aluminum pipes whereas permanent sets systems are buried pipes with sprinklers attached to risers. Labor requirements for solid set vary based on the field and how often they need to be moved. The permanent set, on the other hand, requires very little labor because its, well, permanent. However, its initial installation costs can be quite high.

Drip irrigation systems are widely used on orchards, however, they can certainly be used for hemp irrigation as well. They are designed to operate during the dry days of summer, providing the plants with a constant slow drip of water. The rows of crops are lined with polyethylene strips which carry and dispense the water. This system utilizes very low output, with some using less than a gallon per hour.

Micro-sprinkler systems function much in the same way as drip irrigation. The biggest difference being the water is sprayed over a small area from micro sprinklers rather than discharged through polyethylene tubes. This extra area gives them an advantage over drip irrigation, however, they are more prone to damage.

There are a ton of variables that go into selecting an irrigation system including field size and shape, rainfall, crop density, and much more. For a more in-depth explanation of the mechanics of a sprinkler system, click here.

Irrigation Pumps for Hemp Agriculture

As you can imagine, the variety of irrigation systems mean there is also a wide range of pumps that can be used. If you are not familiar with the requirements for a given system, call us. We are always happy to help you and ensure you get the correct irrigation pump for your hemp crop.