When to irrigate and how much water to apply are two of the most difficult decisions that turf managers have to make. The decision-making process is complex and, in most cases, demands an integrated approach - a coupling of common sense and science-based principles. The greater the scientific understanding; the more effective is the common sense element.
There are many factors to be considered in determining water needs of turf and there are many tools that can guide a turf manager in deciding irrigation amounts and frequencies. Often the decision must be made on a daily basis for various turfs and locations on a golf course. Each green is characterised by its own micro-climate. Contours and infiltration rates will differ from green to green. And the irrigation system layout and performance will vary.
Unfortunately, irrigation practices and systems are often misunderstood and misused. Systems are excessively used or, to avoid over-watering, are under-used. Weather stations, environmental sensors, and sophisticated control systems can assist a turf manager's task and, used wisely, can be extremely helpful. But such instruments require knowledgeable interpretation and appropriate setting to gain maximum benefit. All too frequently, controllers are programmed and left without adjustment for prevailing weather or turf conditions - a 'set and forget' regime is adopted.
Also, sprinkler arcs are often altered without appreciating the inevitable change to the system's precipitation rate. Inappropriate working pressures; malfunctioning valves and sprinklers; and incorrect nozzles are also common faults.
The summer of 2006 highlighted many of these deficiencies and British Turf and Landscape Irrigation Association (BTLIA) members experienced one of their busiest years for system updates and maintenance call-outs. In response to demand, the Association has revised and extended its highly successful outreach training and education programme. The BTLIA Foundation and Certificate modules are now available on a day-release basis (five days per module), as well as in their traditional one-week residential format.
The BTLIA Foundation module investigates the decision-making process for determining irrigation scheduling. Practical workshops enable the attendees to assess their own irrigation needs, based on their system, weather conditions, soil type, turfgrass species, and cultural aims. Learning how to audit their system and determine its precipitation rate enables accurate controller settings.
The BTLIA Certificate module concentrates on the operation and maintenance of automatic systems. Topics include the detection and repair of electrical faults; winterising your system; and malfunctions and component repairs. Practical tasks include risk assessments, pipe repairs, and case studies.
Delivered by industry innovators and leaders, the modules are the most comprehensive of their kind in Europe and successful completion of both modules earns a recognised industry qualification - the BTLIA Certificate in Irrigation System Operation and Maintenance. In addition, you would then be eligible for progression onto the BTLIA Diploma in Irrigation System Design.
Further details of these modules and other BTLIA education opportunities are available from The Secretary, BTLIA, Tel/Fax 01995 670675 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can find out more about the Association at www.btlia.org.uk.