Study Irrigation problems, irrigation management, and what irrigation to use to optimise plant growth and water efficiency in various horticultural applications.

Course Code: BHT305
Fee Code: S3
Duration (approx) Duration (approx) 100 hours
Qualification Statement of Attainment
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Learn to Manage Irrigation Systems for All Sorts of Horticulture Needs

This course is ideal for people who already have some irrigation knowledge but who would like to refine their understanding of irrigation design and system maintenance. 

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 becoming an expert

  • Learn water management, to grow better plants
  • A unique course, with practical application across all types of horticulture, developed and taught by highly trained and experienced professional horticulturists

Duration:  100 hours

This course compliments the "Irrigation Gardens" course. If you have limited knowledge or experience, you are better to study "Irrigation Gardens" first, then follow on with this course.

Expand Your Water Management Skills

Lesson Structure

There are 8 lessons in this course:

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

What You Will Do

  • Contact an enterprise involved in irrigation management. 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. Are there ways that Ag users can minimise their dependence on water access? Write a brief report on your findings and submit with your assignment.
  • Visit an agricultural 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? Submit your findings with your assignment.
  • 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. Submit with your assignment. (No more than one (1) page is required.)
  • 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. Send your results in with your next assignment.
  • Visit (real or virtual) a farmer or agricultural producer who incorporated irrigation systems. Find sufficient farmers (producers) who use spray, micro, surface and flood systems.
  • Enquire about the maintenance of their systems.
  • How is water quality monitored and maintained?
  • Locate at least two irrigation supply companies.
  • Observe how they service customers. Are there any other services they provide?


Water may be renewable, but it is still often in Short Supply

The world's total amount of water has been estimated at 1.35 x 10 to the eighteenth power cubic metres (or 1600 million, million, million litres). Most of this is in a form unsuitable for human use, and there is uneven distribution around the world. About 97.2% is in salty oceans or seas, and about 2.48% is in ice caps or glaciers, aquifers too deep to extract from, in the atmosphere or in topsoil. Only about 0.32% is useable ground or surface water. Of this, 99% is too expensive to get, is in remote areas, or it is polluted. Only about 0.003% of the world's total water supply is usable. This provides about 12 million litres of useable water per person. For example, in the USA (typical of developed nations), the average daily use per person through direct personal use is about 700 litres, through indirect personal use is about 2300 litres, and through indirect agricultural use is about 4000 litres. This equates to a total of about 7000 litres per person per day.

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. Taking Australia as an example, this includes parts of the states of Western Australia, New South Wales and Victoria. Water management will become increasingly important as the world tries to cater for the increasing demand for useable water.

The aim of irrigation management is to re-use 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.

How Much Irrigation Should You Do? 
This is the "big question" for irrigation managers.
It isn't a simple question to manage either; but after doing this course, your ability to answer this question will be far better. 
  • Different types of plants need different levels of irrigation
  • Climate and soil conditions can increase or decrease the need to irrigate
  • Availability of water (or lack of) can impact on decisions about irrigation
  • The method of irrigation used can have a huge impact upon the quantity and frequency of irrigation needed.   
When you understand the dynamics of water in the soil, and in plants; you can make more informed decisions about irrigation. Making informed decisions will allow you to get more from limited water resources, reduce waste, optimise plant growth and maintain your plants in better condition.
It is obviously bad for plants to become so dry that they wilt; but it is equally bad for plants to become so waterlogged that their roots rot.
Wilting point is the point at which the soil is so dry that the plant begins to wilt. Field capacity is the point at which the soil is holding as much water as it can without excess water simply draining away and being lost.
The zone between wilting point and field capacity is important as you aim to keep moisture levels within this zone.
Generally plants take most of their requirements from the upper half of the root zone and as a result only about half of the available water is used. Irrigation is therefore required when approximately half of the available water is used up. The amount of water to be applied to plants is half of the available water in the root zone when the soil is at field capacity.
Irrigation applications are timed according to how quickly the plants use the available moisture. This is dependant on climatic conditions and the availability of nutrients. The rate at which water is supplied by irrigation is important due to soil infiltration rates, or the rate at which water will pass into the soil.
If water is supplied at a rate greater than the ground can absorb it, then runoff may occur resulting in a loss of water.


Opportunities After Study

This course is of most value to people working in:

  • Landscaping
  • Green keeping & turf care
  • Irrigation equipment sales
  • Parks & gardens
  • Irrigation design and installation
  • Garden maintenance

It is also helpful for people looking to start an irrigation business.

Course Contributors

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

Bob James (Horticulturist)

Bob has over 50 years of experience in horticulture across both production sectors (Crops and nursery) and amenity sectors of the industry.
He holds a Diploma in Agriculture and Degree in Horticulture from the University of Queensland; as well as a Maste

John Mason (Horticulturist)

Parks Manager, Nurseryman, Landscape Designer, Garden Writer and Consultant.
Over 40 years experience; working in Victoria, Queensland and the UK.
He is one of the most widely published garden writers in the world; author of more than 70 books and edito

Rosemary Davies (Horticulturist)

Rosemary trained in Horticulture at Melbourne Universities Burnley campus; studying all aspects of horticulture -vegetable and fruit production, landscaping, amenity, turf, aboriculture and the horticultural sciences.
Initially she worked with the Depart

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