For many years, large-scale irrigation around the world was based on state-driven water management and on a planned innovation process and diffusionist extension services. The purpose of this study is to show that formal extension services are not the only intermediaries of innovation and that local innovations take place at the initiative of farmers even in state-driven irrigation schemes. The study addressed changes in farming systems in a large-scale irrigation scheme in Morocco from two angles: a review of planned innovations and analysis of the actual innovation process at the village level. We show that the implementation of the large-scale irrigation scheme contributed to agricultural development, but often indirectly, and that it was not the only source of innovation. We also show how these results support recent thinking on innovation systems. Today, informal labour, neighbour and marketing networks are the main innovation intermediaries. New practices in agricultural extension are required to facilitate local innovations and to link farmers to more global innovation networks.