The pesticides applied on the soil surface can be transported vertically downwards through the unsaturated porous system and lead to groundwater contamination. Proper agricultural management practices such as selection of appropriate irrigation techniques, choosing proper irrigation rates, and application of optimum pesticide dosages are necessary to prevent leaching of pesticides to greater depths thus preventing groundwater contamination. A simulation study is conducted based on the one-dimensional numerical model considering Richard’s equation for unsaturated water flow and solute transport which takes into account the effect of both adsorption and biodegradation with inhibitory effect to understand pesticide transport in an unsaturated porous medium. The study addresses the influence of irrigation rate, type of irrigation, and pesticide dosage on soil moisture and pesticide concentration distribution. The numerical results suggest that higher water application rates can carry the pesticides to greater depths. Pulsed irrigation can slightly reduce water losses through the root zone when compared to continuous irrigation. The comparison of the wetting patterns and the pesticide distribution obtained in continuous and pulsed irrigation helps to decide the use of a particular irrigation strategy in order to achieve suitable goals. In addition, the results from this study bring out better understanding of the effect of pesticide concentration and dosage on the resultant pesticide distribution in the unsaturated zone and the pesticide potential to cause groundwater contamination. The better analysis of outputs from this study can help in improving and designing better agricultural management strategies, carrying out risk assessment and bioremediation studies. © 2016, Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg.