How to maximise irrigation efficiency

By Alistair July 7, 2020 07:45 Updated

With plenty of wet weather starting the year and May the driest on record since 1986, this year is fast shaping up to be very much like 2018 for its extreme weather.

When we look back at the first few months of 2020 at Storm Ciara followed by Dennis, followed by Jorge, it’s safe to say we’ll all remember how wet it was! That followed by an extended period of unusually hot weather, means yet again irrigation systems the length and breadth of the country have had their work cut out.

In the year when brown became the new green, systems the length and breadth of the country weren’t set up for record-breaking temperatures, but that doesn’t have to be the case in 2020. It’s not too late to do a full check of your system and implement effective ‘quick fix’ system renovations, says Robert Jackson, water division sales manager for Reesink Turfcare, an official distributor in the UK and Ireland for Toro irrigation products for the golf, sport and amenity sectors.

Every replacement sprinkler head brings with it design improvements. Toro Infinity sprinklers seen here can be upgraded from the top down allowing for faster, easier and cheaper future upgrades

Irrigating during heat

Even the most advanced and expensive irrigation systems may have dry areas on the course, particularly during prolonged dry spells and golf courses must prioritise their water applications when availability becomes limited. This approach impacts the aesthetics, but also the turf health in roughs and possibly fairways, and tree health, depending on water availability. During a drought, most golf courses must cut back on water applications because of the expense involved. The result may be fairways and roughs that are less-than-desirable aesthetically, but the priority areas: tees, greens, and green surrounds, are irrigated. The result is a golf course that plays well and has saved a tremendous amount of water by properly prioritising water allocations. The firm fairways provide greater ball roll and that’s something many golfers enjoy, or a fair compromise when extreme weather is forcing the issue.

Rechecking your system setup

Rechecking your irrigation system set-up is vital in times of extreme heat and little rain. Issues will quickly become evident but it’s best to be prepared and prevent any issues that incorrect set-up could cause. A good example of this is sprinkler pressure. We came across an example where the pressure at the greens sprinklers were set at 4.5 bar that in turn gave a sprinkler coverage of 20 metres. While this didn’t present any major problems under normal UK conditions, when the dry period extended longer than expected it became obvious that coverage wasn’t extending to where it was expected to, and as a result the greens were suffering with uneven applications causing stressed turf conditions. A simple check unearthed the problem and a quick adjustment to 5.5 bar gave the correct 22 metre radius that was required to give even coverage across the greens – simple check and easy resolve!

Faulty sprinklers or set-up problems will soon be highlighted in these conditions. And at no other time does every drop count as much as when there is a drought. With some course managers claiming a 50 percent increase in water usage, and water restrictions in many places it’s easy to understand why.

Cruden Bay delighted in their fairways in all their tan glory in 2018 because it represents how the sport should be played in the natural environment, it is after all how links courses naturally look at that time of year! It’s also a look many overseas golfers, particularly Americans, love for links golf

The heat is on, irrigating through hot weather

Our goal when applying irrigation, is to irrigate in a similar manner to rainfall. Turf responds best when it receives adequate rain, then dries for a period, before receiving adequate rainfall again.

Irrigating in fierce temperatures with hose pipe bans threatened, or actioned, needs to be specific, with water targeted onto key areas such as the tees, greens and greens surrounds. Moisture content needs to be constantly monitored to help balance out the uniformity of irrigation.

With water conservation paramount there should have been no qualms about taking hold of a watering hose and hand watering where and when needed! And while there’s no denying this is laborious, with less time required for mowing it can easily be shared among the team.

Implementing this level of micromanagement, especially on the greens, is good practice and conserves water making sure the most important areas are taken care of first and foremost.

Integrating Toro Lynx control system software into existing irrigation systems can bring true innovation to your irrigation

Act now for future gains

It certainly seems as though there is a pattern emerging with regards to the weather and so my advice would be to have an extreme weather programme in place and invest now to ensure that if the same happens next year or the year after, you’re prepared.

It is tempting to regard the updating of an irrigation system as something that can only be carried out by specialists, with disruption to play and revenues for months on end. In some instances that will be the case. An aging irrigation system could well be beyond economic upgrading, extension or repair. But what about a more recent system, installed within the last 20 years or so, that is now starting to signs of wear and tear; is a bit of an upgrade possible and worthwhile? With Toro systems, the short answer has always been a qualified yes.

The existing sprinkler body is simply fitted with the latest Toro head technology not just replacing new for old, but for more precision, accuracy, efficiency and economy.

Toro pop-up sprinklers can be easily interchanged with Toro sprinkler head conversion assemblies, in as little as 60 seconds! The same applies to the more recent DT series and 835 series, too. And most of the time, these upgrades can be made without the need for mini-excavators and massive disruption. Toro Infinity sprinklers for example have been designed to be upgraded from the top down with the Smart Access feature allowing future upgrades to be faster, easier and cheaper.

Plus, it’s not just the sprinklers that can be upgraded, Toro Turf Guard in-ground moisture sensors and Lynx control system software can be integrated into existing irrigation systems. Some have credited Toro’s Lynx control system for example with bringing industry buzzwords ‘interchangeable’ and ‘future-proof’ irrigation to life.

Robert Jackson, water division sales manager for Reesink Turfcare

Upgrading with Toro brings true innovation to your irrigation: every replacement sprinkler head brings with it design improvements – you aren’t just replacing the casing, but addressing specific irrigation needs, such as arc retention to achieve a strict start-stop without unwanted movement, eliminating dwell points and subsequent pooling, ensuring even distribution.

For further information call 01480 226800, email, or visit

By Alistair July 7, 2020 07:45 Updated

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