Farm advice: Get ready for irrigation season

By: Elizabeth Soal, IrrigationNZ CEO

With spring just around the corner, there are a number of things irrigators need to be thinking about

The first is completing pre-season irrigation checks and planning for the season ahead. This involves checking flows and pressures are within 10% of operating design specifications to ensure water is applied efficiently.


You will also need to check for leaks in your system, broken sprinklers, and that end gun settings are set correctly.

A bucket test should also be undertaken to check your system is applying water evenly. IrrigationNZ has developed a free bucket test app called ‘Check It’ that you can download from Google Play or the App Store. We’re also currently developing a series of videos for our members on how to undertake a bucket test on different irrigation systems, which will be useful in the future.

Having a leak or a system that applies too much water can cost you a lot in additional electricity costs and waste precious water, so it’s important to pick up any faults before the season begins.

The value of having soil moisture monitoring and weather forecasting tools to assist you to decide when to irrigate is also very effective, so if you haven’t invested in these options, it's worthwhile looking at what is available. IrrigationNZ has guides for members on these topics on our website. 

Before you start irrigating, you should also walk the track the irrigator will travel to check that there are no hazards in its path, such as trees, fence lines, or farm equipment.
August is also a good time to make a plan for how you will manage irrigation scheduling across the coming season.

For example, if it’s very dry, you’ll need to know your higher production areas and whether you can switch off irrigation in less productive areas in order to prioritise irrigating your most productive areas.

Refreshing staff knowledge and upskilling new staff in irrigation management is also important. Allowing staff who have not been properly trained to operate irrigation systems can result in costly maintenance problems, which may leave your irrigation system in need of repair and unavailable when you most need it.

IrrigationNZ has two upcoming Irrigation Manager and Operator training days being held at Lincoln and Ashburton in September. The days are a mix of classroom learning and
in-the-paddock practical application that cover:

  • what good irrigation management practice is, how to achieve it and meet regulatory  requirements,
  • how to operate an irrigation system correctly,
  • when to irrigate and how to manage your irrigation when water is limited to maintain your production,
  • how to manage your irrigation systems to keep them operating well, and
  • what technology is useful and practical to help make irrigation decisions.

More information about the training is available online at
Finally, we usually receive our strongest winds over springtime, so it’s wise to follow the weather for any strong wind warnings and how to respond to these.

In short, it’s advised to point the irrigator into the prevailing wind direction, park it, and anchor it by tying it down. More detailed advice on how to do this is available online at under the ‘Practical Resources/Risk Advice’ link.

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