Farm advice: Keeping your system in check

As 2020 begins, the irrigation season is in full swing. But, it’s inevitable that conditions will most likely get drier as the summer season continues.

Therefore, it’s important now more than ever that on-farm systems are accurate. Something that’s important to take into consideration is that irrigators operate within a farm’s boundaries, especially to make sure water is not being applied on public roads.

Get the best from your bucket. Bucket testing is a great way to make sure your system is performing. 

One of the most common reasons water can often go out of boundary is the extra spray guns on pivot irrigators and travelling irrigators getting too close to roads.

High winds, especially the Norwest, which has been very strong in Canterbury recently, can cause water drifts on roads. Careful placement is needed in windy conditions. 

These challenges can be easily avoided by checking both setback distances, making sure travelling irrigators are an adequate distance from the road and checking that end guns are set and operating correctly.

Not only is it important to make sure water is being best used for the water user’s purpose but also for the safety of others. 

Water going onto roads is not only an inefficient use of it but also has the potential to create safety issues for motorists. It can be difficult to moderate this when there are high winds and changing weather conditions but, it can result in a lot of waste. 

Something else to consider is doing a bucket test to evaluate your system. It should be done at least once a year to ensure the system is working well.

The bucket test method is based on collecting irrigation water strategically placed buckets and measuring water is collected over a certain period of time. Doing a bucket test will help determine the application depth, rate, and how uniformly water is being applied during an irrigation event.


The best way to do a bucket test is by using the bucket test app from IrrigationNZ. The app steps you through the bucket test process and calculates your results. You can find out more information about the app on our website irrigationnz.co.nz. We also have a number of other resources to help you evaluate your irrigation system.

Some common signs of poor performance are the pump is operating under pressure or under flow, irrigator is operating under pressure or under flow, incorrect depth applied, off-target irrigation, ponding or runoff, brown grass, or dry ground.

The most common reasons for underperformance are incorrect sprinkler nozzle selection, maintenance has fallen behind e.g. broken sprinklers, blocked screens or worn pumps, pushing the system too hard.

For example, adding new sprinklers without upgrading mainline or pumps, long return interval. Irrigators that take too long to come back around, resulting in stressed plants, poor sprinkler spacing.

Too little overlap between sprinklers leaves dry areas in between application depth is too high and some of the applied water is lost to drainage, wear and tear due to normal system operation. Equipment just wears out over time, especially pumps.

There are lots of different ways you can make improvements. It’s important to remember that changing or improving irrigation system capability should not be done in isolation but incorporated with soil moisture monitoring and continual performance evaluation to achieve maximum improvements in irrigation efficiency.

With that, your irrigators should be in excellent form for the season ahead. I would like to take this opportunity to wish you all the best for the New Year. Happy irrigating.

Find more farm machinery for sale in NZ

Previous ArticleNext Article
Send this to a friend