Surface water also needs to be available — especially during late July and early August when irrigation needs are at their maximum. Kelley said farmers need to evaluate the available flow the summer before they begin irrigation.

Legal requirements for irrigating also need to be considered. Water rights and regulation differ by state, so producers need to pay special attention to those. And because irrigation is a large-volume water use, new installations in both Indiana and Michigan require registration. In Indiana, registrations are handled by the state Department of Natural Resources.

Farmers also need to take into account the options for sharing irrigation equipment with neighbors, mapping irrigation ideas, available power sources and the economics of irrigation.

"Make sure irrigation will pay," Kelley said. "Think in terms of increasing your average net income per acre after you have covered the additional irrigation-related bills. Figuring this out in advance of the investment is detailed, but well worth the time."

He suggested getting multiple bids from irrigation professionals to make sure farmers have access to the best irrigation tools at the best prices.

Irrigation plans also will depend on the crops grown and crop rotation and tillage preferences.

"Among the traditional crops, commercial corn and alfalfa have shown the greatest economic advantage to irrigation," Kelley said. "Small grains and soybeans have offered some of the lowest returns from added investment in irrigation. Changes in crop rotations often result from adding irrigation."

Specialty crops, such as vegetables and hybrid seed corn, also can benefit from irrigation, but only on certain soil types.

Finally, Kelley said it's important to make sure farmers consider their farming and family goals and match them to irrigation ideas.

"If you think you have a difficult time getting away for a summer vacation now, adding irrigation will greatly increase the required summer labor and cut free time," he said. "Capable irrigation labor is hard to find. Misjudging your available labor and management time needs can lead to a disaster."