Irrigation -- Agricultural Irrigation

Learn better water management and irrigation practices to improve a farm, increase farm profit and improve farm sustainability.

Course CodeBAG213
Fee CodeS2
Duration (approx)100 hours
QualificationStatement of Attainment

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Irrigation - Study water management

Water is essential for both plant and animal growth. It is often a major limitation to productivity. Irrigation now plays a more significant role in agriculture than previously. Depending on the climate, the value of the plants or animals, the value of the land and it's suitability for irrigation, the cost, reliability and quality of the water supply, irrigation may or may not be possible or feasible.


Irrigation may enable plants (i.e. crops, pasture) to be grown in a dry climate where it would not otherwise be possible, or it may supplement the existing rainfall and improve growth rates by extending the growth period of the plant, or by ensuring there is adequate moisture during critical periods when the plant is growing most rapidly. The value of irrigation can vary greatly from year to year depending on the distribution of rainfall during the growth season.
Don't limit your productivity, improve your knowledge and understanding of irrigation with this course.

This is a sound foundation course introducing you to the basics of irrigation design and management.


Lesson Structure

There are 10 lessons in this course:

  1. Introduction to Irrigation
    • Sources of water
    • Soil & water
    • How to improve water quality
  2. Soil Characteristics & Problems
    • Understanding soils
    • Different soils are suited to different purposes
    • Sodicity, pH and salinity
    • Drainage, infiltration and uniformity
  3. Estimating Plant Needs & Irrigation Scheduling
    • When to irrigate
    • Measuring water availability to plant
    • Rooting depths of plants
    • Irrigation calculations
    • Estimating water requirements of plants
    • Crop scheduling
    • Water volumes and duration
  4. Drainage
    • Waste water treatment using reed beds
    • Suitable plants
    • Drainage
    • Dams/Water storage
    • Improving soils
    • Erosion
  5. Types of Irrigation Systems
    • Traveling Sprinklers
    • Conventional Systems
    • Sprinkler Heads
    • Flood Irrigation Systems
    • Water Volumes & Duration
  6. Trickle Systems
    • Trickle Irrigation
    • Microjet Irrigation Provides Many of the Answers
    • Maintaining your Trickle Irrigation
    • Trickle Irrigation: Prevention Of Clogging
  7. Design Specifications
    • Hydraulics
  8. Pumps & Filters
    • Comparison of pump heads
    • Pumps & Pressure Systems
    • Controllers
    • Pumps
  9. Selecting the Right System For a Plant
    • Flood irrigation
    • Sprinkler irrigation
    • Trickle irrigation
    • Irrigation of vines
    • Efficient orchard irrigation
  10. Design & Operation of Systems.
    • Cyclic watering
    • Pulse watering
    • Sprinkler spacing
    • Electrical factors
    • Electric automatic systems

Each lesson culminates in an assignment which is submitted to the school, marked by the school's tutors and returned to you with any relevant suggestions, comments, and if necessary, extra reading.


  • Explain the significance of soil in irrigation.
  • Explain how to determine when to irrigate in agricultural situations.
  • Manage irrigation in agricultural situations.
  • Explain the significance of different aspects of moving water including: drainage, pumps, filters, storage, recirculation, and re-use.
  • Select an appropriate irrigation system for a given agricultural situation.
  • Explain the principles of design for a simple irrigation system.
  • Design a simple irrigation system.
  • Oversee the installation of an irrigation system.

Learn to Manage Water more Effectively

  • Increase Farm Sustainability
  • Increase Farm Profitability

How You Can Purify and Re-use Waste Water

"The purification of waste water and effluent using reed-beds has been achieved for hundreds of years. By allowing dirty water to pass through wetlands planted with reeds and rushes, the roots of certain plants release oxygen which helps micro-organisms break down and filter out impurities. The method can ultimately produce high quality water which may be suitable for drinking. The plant biomass that grows in this system can also be harvested occasionally as a source of mulch.

Reed-beds may be naturally formed wetlands or artificially constructed and planted channels and beds. Given the current degree of environmental pressure on the few natural wetlands remaining, it would appear that further pressure on or usage of such wetlands is unwise. However, the deliberate building of new, well-designed wetland/reed-beds could be a very useful enterprise.

Waste water normally contains a wide range of impurities in the form of solid particles or as dissolved matter. Heavy metals, disease-causing pathogens, detergents and bulk nutrients are often present, sometimes in high concentrations. These materials need to be removed if the water is to pumped back into public water-ways or if it is going to be used for domestic applications.

When micro-organisms break down water pollutants, oxygen is used up. This oxygen consumption varies with different materials as is known as the biological oxygen demand (BOD). For example, nutrient rich wastes such as farm manures or silage effluent have a high BOD. When these pollutants find their way into waterways, the oxygen level in the water becomes seriously depleted as a result of break down processes causing parts of the natural flora and fauna of the waterway to die. When a water body is small and the flow rate is slow (eg. in conditions of low rainfall), this problem can be quite severe. The blue-green species of Algae are then able to flourish, poisoning and fouling the water even further.

The problem of limited oxygen supply may be overcome by the use of 'flow form' basins, pebble streams, waterfalls, deep rock beds, etc. In this environment of plentiful oxygen, micro-organisms such as bacteria, yeasts and fungi to become established and thrive on the surfaces of the pebbles or rocks and consume the soluble polluting matter."


If you are a farmer you will need to look at ways to improve your water usage - water is a costly and limited resource. This course will help you to understand plant irrigation needs, your soil and how it responds to irrigation, when is best time to irrigate and types of irrigation systems that are bst suited to your needs.

If you want to work in the field as a consultant this course is a great starting point to the introduction of water management and irrigation systems suited to agricultural applications.

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Dr. Lynette Morgan

Broad expertise in horticulture and crop production. She travels widely as a partner in Suntec Horticultural Consultants, and has clients in central America, the USA, Caribbean, South East Asia, the Middle East, Australia and New Zealand.
Yvonne Sharpe

RHS Cert.Hort, Dip.Hort, M.Hort, Cert.Ed., Dip.Mgt. Over 30 years experience in business, education, management and horticulture. Former department head at a UK government vocational college. Yvonne has traveled widely within and beyond Europe, and has
Martin Powdrill

25 years working in Telecommunications, IT, Organisational Development, and Energy Conservation & Efficiency, prior to setting up his own Permaculture consulting business. Martin has a Bsc (Hons) Applied Science (Resources Option), MSc Computer Studies, P
Dr. Gareth Pearce

Veterinary scientist and surgeon with expertise in agriculture and environmental science, with over 25 years of experience in teaching and research in agriculture, veterinary medicine, wildlife ecology and conservation in the UK, Australia and New Zealand
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