Educational Training

Irrigation Management Webinar Training Series

This educational series of five videos (narrated PowerPoint slides) by Scott Sanford and John Panuska of the University of Wisconsin-Madison will help participants understand:

  • basic equipment options for proper irrigation
  • how much water should be applied and when
  • how to prevent leaching
  • using an irrigation scheduling program
  • use of soil moisture sensors
  • testing to ensure uniform application of water
  • well testing to estimate energy efficiency of the pumping system
  • basics of a drip irrigation system


  1. Irrigation 101-Basics of Irrigation Systems and Water Resources
    If you are not currently an irrigator but are thinking about purchasing a system, this module will provide you with the basic system components (water sources, pumping systems, piping, distribution/application methods and system controls). The discussion includes the advantages and disadvantages of different well and pump types along with different types of water delivery systems (sprinkler and drip). The approximate costs for equipment and operation of various types of systems is also included.  Click here to view the video.
  2. Irrigation Water Management and Scheduling
    Click here to view Part 1, which looks at a plant’s root zone water balance concerning water inputs from irrigation and rainfall and outputs via deep drainage and plant uptake (evapotranspiration). Soil water movement includes how water is held in the soil and what conditions cause it to move deeper into the soil profile. Click here to view Part 2, which explores several methods to monitor soil moisture along with the advantages, disadvantages and approximate costs of each. In addition, different levels of data management technology are included (readers, data loggers and telemetry-based systems) along with their advantages and disadvantages.
  3. Wisconsin Irrigation Scheduling Program (WISP 2012)
    The WISP 2012 program is a free web-based soil water management tool that uses the Check Book Method to track root zone soil moisture. WISP uses water inputs and outputs to predict daily soil moisture levels, and the user can also enter observed soil moisture data to calibrate model predictions. Plant potential evapotranspiration (ET) is automatically downloaded based on pivot location (latitude and longitude) and is subsequently adjusted based on crop canopy cover. Daily and annual rainfall, irrigation, ET and deep drainage are summarized and displayed. The user can also adjust root zone soil moisture targets. The daily water inputs, outputs and soil moisture values can be exported at any time during the growing season and imported into Excel for record keeping. Click here to see an introduction to WISP and here to learn to use the model.
  4. Irrigation Testing, Maintenance and Energy Use
    This module covers tests that can be performed to insure the irrigation system is working efficiently and applying water uniformly. Various options are discussed to reduce system operating costs (ex. irrigation scheduling, reduced pressure systems, pipeline design, pump/well testing, off-peak electrical usage and variable speed drives). Pumping plant efficiencies for different energy sources (ex. diesel, gasoline, propane, electric and natural gas) are discussed and compared. The various types of efficiencies (ex. water conveyance, water application, irrigation, water distribution and distribution uniformity) are defined and discussed along with methods to measure these efficiencies. Information is also included on several state and federal energy conservation programs such as incentives, grants, and tax credits.
    Click here to go to the link and view the video.
  5. Basics of Micro/Drip Irrigation
    This module covers the basics of equipment, components, design, operation and water management with drip irrigation. Specifics include the advantages and disadvantages of these types of systems along with maintenance requirements (ex. line flushing, filters, plugged emitters, chemigation and soil salt control). Water management specifics include methods to determine water application time and frequency. A list of major manufacturers of drip irrigation equipment is also included.
    Click here to go to the link and view the video.

Energy use in Irrigation Systems:

  • The eXtension Agricultural Energy Community of Practice has a website with materials in a FarmEnergy Media Archive. Dr. William Kranz at the University of Nebraska Extension has posted a webinar with 3 segments that discuss the amount of energy used in an irrigation system. They are: Irrigation Pumping Plant Efficiency, Irrigation Scheduling, and Irrigation Pipeline Distribution Energy.  (When you click on “Watch Video” you may have to accept the use of “Flash” for the video to be viewed)

Webinars From USDA-NRCS

Soil Water Sensors for Agriculture – Theory and Issues

Note: an audio distortion is corrected at 11 minutes into this webinar.

Participants will learn about the types of soil water sensors available for on farm use and their advantages and limitations for irrigation water management. (February 11, 2016)

Soil Water Sensors for Agriculture – Applications and Usefulness

Soil water sensors have been used for irrigation and water management in agriculture for many years, but with limited success in many cases. This presentation will cover the types of sensors available and explanations, with examples, of how sensor type, calibration, installation and telemetry options affect the usefulness and representativeness of sensors in given soils. (January 14, 2016)

Basics of Pump and Pipeline Design and Selection in Irrigation Systems

Participants will learn the basics of pumps and pipelines that include types, hydraulics, characteristic curves, and selection, as well as power units, energy considerations, and economics and safety. (September 24, 2014)