Irrigation Management (Agricultural)

Learn to manage irrigation on a farm for better efficiency, productivity and sustainability. Experienced and qualified professional tutors.

Course CodeBAG303
Fee CodeS3
Duration (approx)100 hours
QualificationStatement of Attainment

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                     .... when they know how to use it properly

There should be plenty of water for everyone..., however three controlling factors: very unequal distribution, rapidly rising demand and increasing pollution around urban and industrial areas means that some areas of the planet are already using water at a greater rate than it is being replenished. This includes parts of Western Australia, and parts of NSW and Victoria. Water management will become increasingly important to try and cater for the increasing demand for usable water.

The aim of irrigation management is to reuse water as much as possible, to collect and store as much water as possible, and to ensure that what water you do use is used in an efficient manner. This course builds on Irrigation BAG213. It teaches you to manage the design and operation of large scale irrigation systems.

Prerequisites: Irrigation (Agriculture) BAG213 or equivalent (BHT 210 or BHT304) must be completed prior to commencing this course.

Lesson Structure

There are 8 lessons in this course:

  1. Water management
  2. Irrigation scheduling
  3. Drainage
  4. Irrigation controllers
  5. Irrigation maintenance
  6. Fertigation
  7. Design evaluation
  8. Irrigation design

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.


  • Devise ways to optimise water efficiency (ie. minimise wastage), during irrigation of plants.
  • Schedule irrigation for a large scale situation such as a large nursery, crop, turf, garden or pasture.
  • Analyse the design of different drainage systems
  • Formulate procedures to operate irrigation controllers, for appropriate tasks.
  • Manage the maintenance of irrigation systems, both small and large scale.
  • Manage the fertigation of plants through an irrigation system.
  • Evaluate the design of large scale irrigation systems.
  • Design an irrigation system, including its drainage.

What You Will Do

  • Explain different factors which cause water to be wasted including:
    • Evaporation
    • Run off
    • Over spray
    • Scheduling
  • Determine where water is wasted, in both the operation and management of a specified irrigation system
  • Determine changes to achieve more efficient water usage, in a specified system.
  • Develop guidelines for determining when to irrigate in a particular situation.
  • Determine through an analysis, when to irrigate on a studied site, by evaluating soil moisture and other characteristics of a site, periodically over two months, and referencing annual rainfall statistics over a period of years.
  • Record in a log book, plant growth and soil moisture for an existing irrigation system operated using two different watering patterns, each for one month, and over two consecutive months.
  • Compare differences in varying the scheduling of a watering system over two months
  • Prepare an irrigation schedule for a specific garden or crop.
  • Develop criteria for designing a specified drainage system.
  • Explain the design criteria for a specified drainage requirement.
  • Devise strategies for dealing with drainage requirements in emergencies, including:
    • extreme weather (eg. hail, storm)
    • burst pipe
    • blocked drains
  • Determine appropriate drainage requirements for a specified situation, and over a specified area, including:
    • Type of drainage required
    • Specifications of drainage required
  • Evaluate the operation of a drainage system, installed under irrigation on a site studied by the learner.
  • Compare four different irrigation controllers with reference to different criteria including:
    • Labour costs
    • Maintenance
    • Reliability
  • Determine appropriate applications for four different types of irrigation controllers
  • Explain the operation of a specific brand of time clock, studied by the learner.
  • Explain the operation of a specified computerised irrigation controller.
  • Develop three different procedures to operate a specific irrigation controller, in order to satisfy three different specified purposes.
  • Determine routine site maintenance requirements for different types of irrigation systems including:
    • spray irrigation
    • micro irrigation
    • surface irrigation
    • flood irrigation
  • Explain routine site maintenance requirements for different types of irrigation systems including:
    • spray irrigation
    • micro irrigation
    • surface irrigation
    • flood irrigation
  • Develop a procedure for maintaining water quality, in a specified irrigation system, at a workplace visited by the learner.
  • Explain water quality maintenance activities required for efficient irrigation practices in a specific situation.
  • Compare the service supplied by different irrigation suppliers, in terms of scope and quality.
  • Develop an irrigation monitoring program, for a specific irrigation system, studied by the learner.
  • Write a maintenance schedule for a specified irrigation system.
  • Explain the use of fertigation, in a specific horticultural workplace.
  • Determine appropriate applications for fertigation in one specific industry sector.
  • Determine inappropriate fertigation applications in different specific industry sector.
  • Explain why certain applications for fertigation are inappropriate.
  • Compare the suitability of six different specified fertilisers for fertigation.
  • Determine resources required to undertake fertigation in a specified situation, including:
    • equipment
    • materials
    • manpower
  • Collate available data on a specified irrigation system, including:
    • system performance data
    • water supply
    • water consumption
    • crop production or plant growth data
    • climatic trends
    • soil characteristics
    • monitor irrigation performance
  • Analyse collated data against different criteria including:
    • benchmarks
    • specifications
    • predictions
  • Compile a comprehensive report evaluating a system, which includes:
    • data evaluation
    • performance indicators
    • conclusions
    • recommendations
  • Prepare design specifications for storage and distribution of water.
  • Explain appropriate methods for recycling, re-use or disposal of water, for three different specified irrigation systems.
  • Are there any legal or health considerations?
  • Design a drainage system for a specified irrigation system, including:
    • Sketch plans
    • Materials lists
    • Cost estimates
  • Determine costing for a specified drainage system.
  • Prepare a report recommending design modifications to an existing irrigation system in a specified situation.
  • Prepare a design for a micro irrigation system for an area of forty square metres, to a standard which is adequate for a contractor to install the system; and including:
    • Plans
    • Calculations
    • Materials specifications


Without water; plants cannot survive; and without plants, animals will not survive.
Water is a major component of all plant growth. In succulent, leafy plant material the water content may be as high as 85 - 95%. Of all materials taken in by a plant water is absorbed in the largest quantities. Generally less than 5% of the water taken in by the plant is used within the plant. In some cases the amount used is as little as 1%. The water remaining in the plant is used mainly in the cell tissue which are 75 - 90% water, as a carrier of foods and growth regulators from the leaves via the transport system (vascular system), and in very small quantities as part of the photosynthetic process.


The remaining 95% or more acts as a carrier of nutrients. Once it has carried these nutrients up through the plant, it becomes surplus and is disposed of to the atmosphere through the leaf stomata (leaf pores). This loss of water also helps to keep the leaf canopy cool reducing the likelihood of leaf burning or desiccation. This upward movement of water from the roots through the stems via the vascular system to the leaves is sometimes known as the transpiration stream.


Transpiration is the principal method of water movement into and through the plant. This is a physical process powered by the evaporation of water as a vapour into the atmosphere from the plant leaf. This water is lost from the outer surface of the leaf mesophyll cells (the spongy interior of the leaf). As the water is lost the cells become dehydrated. This creates a potential difference between the dry mesophyll cells and adjacent moist ones. Because of waters strong cohesive property (strong resistance of water molecules to be pulled apart) water from the adjacent moist cells diffuses through the cell walls into the dehydrated cells thereby relieving the pressure differential. The continued loss of water molecules from the leaves by evaporation creates a continual flow of water throughout the plant. This results in the pulling of replacement water from the soil via the roots and up the plant stem into the leaf.


Evaporation from the crown of the plant is roughly proportional to the size of the crown. Wind is the major cause of evaporation as it removes the moisture laden air around the leaves creating a strong gradient between the moisture laden leaf and the drier atmosphere surrounding the leaf. Increasing temperature will also increase the rate of evaporation. During winter transpiration is generally small, however in spring and early summer the amount of water transpired can be very large. If the availability of soil moisture is high and other conditions (e.g. light) are favourable the transpiration will be high. If either water supply is limited or other conditions are not favourable then transpiration will be greatly reduced. On a sunny spring day, mature trees can use 250 or more litres of water a day. One hectare of forest in a medium rainfall area may use the equivalent of 1000mm of rainfall per year. In high rainfall areas, such as tropical rain forests, over 2500mm per year may be transpired. In low rainfall areas the figure may be only 250mm per year (500mm of rain per hectare is equivalent to about 5 million litres). "


For any farm to be sustainable water resources must remain sustainable too. Learning to manage water resources is one of the most important aspects of farming today. Water allocations are often limited and finding the best practices to use water wisely and efficiently - is now fundamental to successful farming.

This course will benefit:

  • Farmers
  • Irrigation managers
  • Irrigation consultants
  • Irrigation equipment suppliers


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Marius Erasmus

Subsequent to completing a BSc (Agric) degree in animal science, Marius completed an honours degree in wildlife management, and a masters degree in production animal physiology. Following the Masters degree, he has worked for 9 years in the UK, and South
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
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