Irrigation Management (Horticultural)

An advanced level course for people with some existing irrigation knowledge. Learn to water plants more efficiently. Develop skills in monitoring systems and calculating water needs. Ideal for commercial and private landscapes and production horticulture.

Course Code: BHT305
Fee Code: S3
Duration (approx) Duration (approx) 100 hours
Qualification Statement of Attainment
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Develop Your Irrigation Skills & Knowledge

Work towards becoming an irrigation specialist This advanced course assumes some knowledge of irrigation equipment and installation. It is suitable for foremen, supervisors, managers and installers of irrigation systems.

It includes topics such as how to monitor water usage, measuring volumes of water administered, problems with different impurities in water, electronic equipment, and different types of system design and components. 

Towards better management, design and irrigation system maintenance  

This course is a natural progression from Irrigation (Gardens). It can be studied as a stand alone course; however we would normally advise to undertake Irrigation Gardens first.

The following topic areas are covered:

  • Ways to optimise water efficiency
  • Scheduling irrigation for nurseries, gardens, turf and horticultural crops.
  • Drainage system design
  • Operating irrigation controllers
  • Managing system maintenance
  • Managing fertigation
  • Evaluating irrigation designs
  • Design of different systems

This course builds on skills achieved in Irrigation (BHT210 and BHT204) modules to develop students’ skills to manage the design and operation of large scale irrigation systems for horticultural applications.

 

Lesson Structure

There are 8 lessons in this course:

  1. Waste water and recycling
    • Teaches how to minimize water wastage in irrigation.
  2. Measuring water usage
    • Examines how to schedule irrigation for a large scale situation such as a large nursery, crop, turf, garden or pasture.
  3. Drainage
    • Presents an analysis the design of different drainage systems
  4. Irrigation controllers
    • Looks at the formulation of procedures to operate irrigation controllers, for appropriate tasks
  5. System maintenance
    • Examines the maintenance of irrigation systems, both small and large scale
  6. Fertigation
    • Examines the management of fertigation of plants through an irrigation system
  7. Design evaluation
    • Looks at the evaluation of the design of large scale irrigation systems
  8. System design
    • You will learn how to design an irrigation system, including its drainage

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.

What You Will Do

  • Contact your regional or local water authority.
    • Ask them for information on their water restriction policy.
    • When are water restrictions enforced and how do they affect water users?
    • Focus mainly on the problems experienced by agricultural users.
    • Consider ways that users can minimise their dependence on water access?
    • Write a brief report on your findings and submit with your assignment.
  • Visit a property that uses irrigation.
    • Discuss with the manager the methods that are used to decide when to water and how much water to use.
    • Is irrigation an important element in the success or otherwise of the property?
  • Choose a drainage system to which you can get access.
    • Remember a drainage system is designed to cope with most situations.
    • They are many examples in your local everyday environment.
    • Some examples might include the guttering on your house or even on your car.
    • Discuss how the system operates and include sketches to show design features.
  • Contact a number of companies that offer computerised and technology solutions to irrigation.
    • Obtain prices and information if possible on appropriate working installations of their product.
    • If possible try a follow up visit at least one (1) operation and discuss the product with a user as well as a retailer. If distance or transport is a problem then you could try writing for this information, which would be suitable for the purpose of this set task.
  • Visit a property that uses large irrigation systems.
    • Enquire about the maintenance of their systems.
    • Consider how is water quality monitored and maintained?
    • Investigate at least two irrigation supply companies.
    • Observe how they service customers.
    • Consider: are there any other services they provide?

Following is an extract from the course - if after reading that you would like to talk with one of our tutors - experts in this field - then click on the 'Talk To An Expert' box located at the bottom of this page. our experts can help you make the right course choice to suit your needs now and into the future.

What is Soil Moisture?

Moisture is present in the soil and can be described through a range of hydraulic terms. These terms include things like field capacity, wilting point, etc.

The type of soil that exists, and the components of that soil greatly influence the moisture levels. Clay soils with small particles are known to hold more water than sandy soils. Soils high in organic matter will hold more water than non-organic matter soils.

Too much water however in the soil may result is plant decline, even death, due to the lack of oxygen present. It is crucial a balance is made between water and air so that the plants will grow. Some plants required more water bogged soils whereas others need extremely well drained soils.

After irrigation or rainfall, water causes saturation of the soil's surface. As a result of gravity, the water will make its way down the soil profile by gravity and capillarity filling most (or all) air pores with water. As more water is added, the depth of saturation increases. In some cases, hydrophobic reactions on the soil surface will prevent water from being absorbed into the soil profile.
 
In time, water will percolate down through the profile (i.e. drain through). Soil will hold onto some of this water as a result of surface tension. As this water is held by tension, it takes suction force form the plant to extract the necessary water needed: a small farce will extract water from large pores; a large force will extract water from small pores which hold with greater pressure.

Soil texture and structure greatly influence the holding ability of the soils. Textures of clays have a greater holding ability than sands. Structure (the arrangement of soil particles and aggregates) influences the capillary system which in turn affects the drainage, water holding ability, aeration and erosion properties.
 
Sand, due to its large texture, does hold much water. However, it makes the water readily available to plant roots. Clay, with its small particle size, has a good tension force and therefore holds onto water well and does not release water as easily. Loam soils are regarded as the best type due to their ability to exhibit characteristics of both.

In order for correct irrigation practises to be implemented, a measurement of soil moisture content is required. The object of irrigating a crop is to provide as close to optimal growing conditions as is possible. Too much water can be just as detrimental to a crop as too little water. The soil surface may be dry, yet the moisture content of the soil in the root zone may be perfect. The leaves of the plant can be used as an indicator of the adequacy of available water.

Briefly, the leaf cells through osmotic action (i.e. transpiration) cause water to be drawn up through the roots and hence out of the surrounding soil. This decreases the water content and increases the suction potential in the soil which can be measured with a tensiometer. As water content drops further the plants leaves will begin to wilt due to loss of turgidity.

The ‘permanent wilting point’ of a plant indicates at what stage of water deprivation the plant will not recover from wilting. This should be avoided at all costs as it is at this point that the plant will have suffered too much damage and very likely the crop will fail. In order to assess the soil condition a number of tests and methods of empirically measuring soil moisture characteristics have been developed.

Water Monitoring
In the past, much of the equipment available lacked accuracy and real value in industry. Nowadays, this situation has largely changed, although the accuracy of some less expensive devices may still be questionable.

Some of the devices now available include:

a) Gypsum Blocks
This is an older method, used for monitoring, but not controlling moisture levels.

b) Neutron Probe Meters
This is an older technique, relatively expensive (compared with newer devices), and used less often today than in the 1970's and 80's. It is used for measuring only.
 
c) Tensiometers
A tensiometer measures the soil moisture suction characteristics of soil (i.e. how tightly water is held on the surface of soil particles).

A tensiometer is a long impermeable cylinder (the probe), tipped with a porous material at the base which water in the soil can exert pressure on, as it is absorbed into the water filled probe. The top of the tube is fitted with a gauge to measure changes in pressure inside the cylinder/probe.

In the past, they have been used by farmers and growers to give on-the-spot field measurements. These are measured in ‘bars’ with a range of 0 bars signifying excellent available water characteristics to 0.8 bars signifying poor available water characteristics. These figures are subject to soil type variations with clay soils having very different implications to say, loams and sands.

An example of tensiometer use is by the vine furrow irrigators of the Victorian Mallee district of Australia. They are encouraged to irrigate when their tensiometer readings are between 30-40 centibars (0.3 - 0.4 bars) during the early months of the season (pre-January). The lesser tension figure relates to a sandy soil and the higher figure to a silty clay loam.

Tensiometers are used less today than in the past, due to the range of other technologically advanced devices now available.

d) Ceramic Block Sensors
Sensors are buried in, or near, the root zone of plants. Electrical characteristics of these sensors will respond to water levels in the surrounding soil triggering irrigation to start at a pre-set level, and to switch off at another level. Soil salinity does not affect the device. Irrigation efficiency typically results in a 50% decrease in water usage. An example is the Cumming Watermatic Irrigation Management System.

e) Heat Sensor System
Buried sensors give off heat pulses and measure the response which varies according to moisture content of the soil.  An example is the DRW Micro Link.

f) Dielectric Scanning Device
Probes are placed inside PVC tubes sunk into the soil. These probes measure the dielectric constant of the soil at routine intervals - commonly every 10-60 minutes. An example is the EnviroSCAN Water Monitoring System which can be powered by batteries or solar panels. It is precise and flexible.

Applications
Any irrigation measuring or controlling device is only as good as the way in which it is used. Measurements must be taken in the root zone of the plant for them to be appropriate. The irrigator must also have the ability to interpret the meaning of measurements of soil moisture and relate the measurements to the needs of a particular type of plant being grown. 

 

WHY STUDY THIS COURSE?

This course assumes that students have a basic understanding of irrigation systems and components. If not, it is advisable to take Irrigation (Gardens) or one of the other introductory irrigation modules first.  This course guides students in the design and implementation of irrigation systems to meet a wide variety of purposes from orchards to crops, and sports fields to private gardens. Graduates will be able to calculate water usage and requirements, and assess the viability of irrigation systems. The course is aimed at those seeking higher levels of responsibility in irrigation.

This course is relevant to people working in:

Parks & gardens
Landscaping
Irrigation
Garden maintenance
Green keeping & turf care

 

 

Principal of ACS Distance Education, John Mason, is fellow of the CIH.

Member of Study Gold Coast Education Network.

ACS Global Partner - Affiliated with colleges in seven countries around the world.

Member Nursery and Garden Industry Association.


How can I start this course?

You can enrol at anytime and start the course when you are ready. Enrolments are accepted all year - students can commence study at any time. All study is self paced and ACS does not set assignment deadlines.

Please note that if a student is being assisted by someone else (e.g. an employer or government subsidy), the body offering the assistance may set deadlines. Students in such situations are advised to check with their sponsor prior to enrolling. The nominal duration of a course is approximately how long a course takes to complete. A course with a nominal duration of 100 hours is expected to take roughly 100 hours of study time to complete. However, this will vary from student to student. Short courses (eg. 100 hrs duration) should be completed within 12 months of enrolment. Certificates, Advanced Certificates and Awards (eg. over 500 hours duration) would normally be completed within 3 -5 years of enrolment. Additional fees may apply if a student requires an extended period to complete.
If a student cannot submit their assignments for 6 months to ACS, they should advise the school to avoid cancellation of their student
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If you have limited computer skills, we can make special arrangements for you.

This is possible, it depends on the institution. We recommend that if you would like to use our courses that you contact the institution first. Our Course Handbook is a good resource for this.

Our courses are written in English and we only have English speaking academic staff. If you can read and complete your assignments in English, our courses are ideal for you.

Our courses are designed to build knowledge, hands on skills and industry connections to help prepare you to work in the area, running your own business, professional development or as a base for further study.

This course has been designed to cover the fundamentals of the topic. It will take around 100 hours to complete, which includes your course reading, assignment work, research, practical tasks, watching videos and anything else that is contained in the course. Our short courses are a great way to do some professional development or to learn a new skill.

It’s up to you. The study hours listed in the course are a rough guide, however if you were to study a short course (100 hours) at 10 hours per week, you could finish the course in 10 weeks (just an example). Our courses are self-paced, so you can work through the courses in your own time. We recommend that you wait for your tutor to mark and return your assignment before your start your next one, so you get the benefits of their feedback.

The course consists of course notes, videos, set tasks for your practical work, online quizzes, an assignment for each lesson (that you receive feedback from your tutor from) and ends in an exam (which is optional, if would like to receive the formal award at the end), using our custom built Learning Management System - Login.Training.

Our courses are designed for adults to gain professional development and skills to further their careers and start businesses.

Our custom online learning portal allows you to conduct your learning online. There may be practical tasks that you can do offline. You have the option of downloading your course notes or print them to read later.

There is also the option to pay an additional fee for printed course notes and or USB (availability limited to location and deliverability).

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We offer printed notes for an additional fee. Also, you can request your course notes on a USB stick for an additional fee.

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We are more learning focussed, rather than assessment focussed. You have online quizzes to test your learning, written assignments and can complete an exam at the end of the course (if you want to receive your certificate). You will not receive a pass/ fail on your course work. If you need to add more details on your assignment, we will ask you to resubmit and direct you where you need to focus. If you need help, you can ask your tutor for advice in the student room.

Each module (short course) is completed with one exam.

Exams are optional, however you must sit an exam if you would like to receive a formal award. You will need to find someone who can supervise that you are sitting the exams under exams conditions. There is an additional cost of $55 (AUS) $50 (O/S) for each exam.
More information is here

There are practical components built into the course that have been designed to be achieved by anyone, anywhere. If you are unable to complete a task for any reason, you can ask your tutor for an alternative.

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You can bundle the short courses to create your own customised learning bundle, Certificates or Advanced Certificates. More information is on this page.

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Course Contributors

The following academics were involved in the development and/or updating of this course.

Jacinda Cole (Horticulturist)

B.Sc., Cert.Garden Design. Landscape Designer, Operations Manager, Consultant, Garden Writer.
She was operations manager for a highly reputable British Landscape firm (The Chelsea Gardener) before starting up her own landscaping firm. She spent three ye

Adriana Fraser (Horticulturist)

Over 30 years working in horticulture, as a gardener, propagator, landscape designer
, teacher and consultant. Adriana has spent much of her life living on large properties, developing and maintaining her own gardens, and living a semi self sufficient li





Tutors

Meet some of the tutors that guide the students through this course.

Megan Cox

Megan has completed a Bachelor of Science (Environmental Conservation) with Honours from Writtle University College, as well as a Master of Science Degree in Countryside Management from Manchester Metropolitan University.

Her experience includes working as a Botanist, Ecologist, Head Gardener, Market Gardener and a Farming and Conservation Officer.

She has worked in various roles in Horticulture, Agriculture and Ecology since 2005. Megan has worked for the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) and the Centre for Environment and Rural Affairs among other organisations in the UK, as well as in Australia and Cambodia.

Nicola Stewart

Nicola worked in publishing before changing direction to teach Anatomy, Physiology and various complementary therapies in the UK’s post-compulsory sector for 16 years. She is the published author of 10 books, plus a range of magazine articles and has also ghost-written across a number of genres. When she is not working for ACS, she provides specialist literacy tuition for children with dyslexia.

Parita Shah

Parita has a Masters Degree in Horticulture specializing in Plantation, Spices, Medicinal and Aromatic crops and Organic farming. She has worked as a freelance consultant, and in an Avocado nursery in NSW as grafting and preparing avocado clones.

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