Soil temperatures are starting to rise (now around 9-10 degrees) and potential evapotranspiration rates are starting increase (moving towards 3 mm/ day), and for the first time in months my soil moisture probes at home are dropping below field capacity! The NIWA climate outlook for spring is for much warmer temperatures with average rainfall. This is due to the strengthening La Niña conditions which bring a north-easterly weather patterns to NZ.
Given the outlook and that we’ve just experienced the wettest winter on record, alongside the current labour shortages, irrigation system pre-seasons checks are likely at the back of everyone’s mind this year. However, now is the best time to start-up your irrigation system and check everything’s in place for the season ahead. Making time now will avoid any nasty surprises and getting caught up in the ‘it needs fixing yesterday’ queue if all is not well.
Following these seven simple checks will ensure you are well prepared for the season ahead:
1. Check pressure at the headworks and at each irrigator/ block is within 10% of the design pressure - if it is not check for significant leaks and test again, if no leaks are found your pump may need servicing or pressure regulating valves may be faulty
2. For drip-micro systems clean the filter(s) and flush the mainline and each lateral - this is important for drip micro systems along with mid-season flushing due to the small orifice sizes of the drippers/ sprinklers, particularly if you use fertigation
3. Visually check each irrigator/ block for leaks (split hoses, broken sprinklers, or failed regulators) and blocked nozzles - replace as necessary
4. For pivots and laterals unhook droppers from the truss rods and ensure each dropper has a weight - unhooking droppers needs to be performed as and when during the season as they hugely impact the uniformity of application
5. For pivots with corner arms and variable rate irrigation and for each block on a drip-micro system, check the individual solenoid valves are working - replace as necessary
6. Check soil moisture probes are working and that the field capacity and irrigation trigger points are set correctly
7. Upskill yourself in irrigation management by coming along to a Primary Insight workshop
Primary Insight provides a specialist irrigation performance assessment service undertaken by qualified professionals. We can also support you with your soil moisture probe, making sure they are working and showing you how to use them to aid with irrigation decision making.