Introducing the Water School

Come on a learning journey with us as we explore the big questions of irrigation and dive deeper into the science of turning water into food.

Learning by doing is at the heart of the VIA. In our first course of the Water School, Richard takes you through a year in his garden laboratory.

The course is called "A Journey via the Scientist's Garden" and can be can be done in two ways. For those who want an introduction to the VIA in action, you can watch the Garden Documentary below. For those who want to go deeper into the science, we encourage you to enrol in the Water School.

How to participate?

Just watch the documentary

The garden documentary consists of the seven videos below, each 15 minutes long. The videos follow a number of different crops through the year, with Richard monitoring water, nitrate and salt and explaining what the colour patterns mean. The documentary can be accessed from this page below.

Or, enrol in the course

The Water School course consists of seven modules that are 40 minutes long. Each module starts with one of the garden videos and then goes much deeper into the science behind managing water and solutes in irrigated agriculture. To participate the Water School, you must enrol.
Steps to enrol
  1. Sign up to the VIA
    You will need to sign in before you can enrol. If you don’t have an account, please sign up here: Sign up
  1. Enrol
    Once you are signed in, click on the menu: My VIA, My Water School and then click Enrol.

Garden Documentary Series

"A Journey via the Scientist's Garden"

Play video

Introduction to the journey
The video introduces the story behind the VIA. We give you a basic overview of the monitoring equipment and the data visualisation platform and what the Water School is all about.
Why don’t farmers do what we tell them? (presentation)
The presentation unpacks the video by looking at the historical development of soil water sensors, their adoption by irrigators and the different ways that scientists and farmers create and validate knowledge.

Play video

Learning by colour
The video was filmed during the spring. We explain the colour output of the sensors. We track water monitoring for a broad bean crop, nitrate monitoring in an onion crop and salt monitoring in tomatoes.
What do those colours mean? (presentation)
The presentation unpacks the video by showing what the colours from the monitoring sensors mean. We explain how we derive the colour thresholds for action for water and nitrate.

Play video

Colours and patterns
The video was filmed during the summer when the garden is in full swing. We investigate furrow irrigated tomatoes, trying to work out where the water is going and where the roots are active.
Triple loop learning (presentation)
The presentation unpacks the video with examples of water, salt, nitrate patterns and how we interpret them. It ends with some theory around learning for sustainable irrigation management.

Play video

When to water
The video was shot in late summer when the weather is hot and irrigation is more critical. We show how crop growth stage and drip, furrow or flood irrigation give us different Chameleon colour patterns.
Getting our roots down deeper (presentation)
The presentation unpacks the video with further examples of interpreting Chameleon patterns and how the thresholds for action are set. We conclude with some case studies of over- and under-irrigation.

Play video

Feast and famine
The video marks the change of seasons from summer to autumn when the cool-season crops are planted. We see problems of overproduction and the ‘hungry gap’ and explore some of the deep dilemmas of irrigation.
VIA data analytics (presentation)
The presentation moves us beyond irrigation scheduling to irrigation management at larger scales. We show how data can be aggregated to summarise the performance of whole irrigation schemes over time.

Play video

It gets complicated
The video was filmed in late autumn when irrigation is hardly needed on cool-season crops growing into the winter. We give you a crash course in soil science with a range of demonstrations to show how soils hold water.
What is in the water? (presentation)
The presentation provides more detail around managing salt in irrigation agriculture, and how to leach salt without leaching nutrients.

Play video

The life of a sensor
The final video tracks the life of a sensor, from its testing in the lab to troubleshooting in the field and then we tie up all the loose ends from journey.
Bringing it all together (presentation)
The presentation revises concepts around how soils hold water and how the Chameleon sensors work. We also revise the different ways that scientists and farmers create knowledge, and how we move from monitoring and learning to social change.