Managing irrigation for best impact

Tom Middlebrook and Brian Thomson will discuss having better access to real-time data and decision support tools when it comes to making effective irrigation decision.

Tom Middlebrook and Brian Thomson will discuss having better access to real-time data and decision support tools when it comes to making effective irrigation decision.

Irrigation decisions can be tricky and often made by local intensive grazing industries using a “best guess” approach, that is, when water is available.

While the region has been experiencing tough conditions, recent rainfall has raised a quandary for some – “How do I manage the irrigation water I have available to me most effectively?”

The Hunter Smart Farming: Irrigating for Profit Project, supported by Hunter Local Land Service (HLLS) and funded by the National Landcare Program, has been raising the awareness of the importance of improved irrigation scheduling, using a more informed approach, for the past 12 months.

“Delayed water application after rainfall is a common mistake irrigators make,” project manager, Marguerite White explained. 

“We tend to hold-up thinking we’ll make savings on water and power, however, the most profitable irrigation may be the never applied to capitalise on recent rainfall. A further one or two irrigations following rain may be just what’s needed to raise soil moisture to levels to those required by plant root systems, or make nitrogen application a possible option, thus driving pasture or fodder crop production.”

The project has been focusing upon starting irrigation at the right time and making sure all equipment is ready.

Two demonstration dairy farms located at Barrington, managed by Adam Forbes and Tom Middlebrook, were established earlier this year to trial and demonstrate readily available decision support equipment and resources. The project is following the irrigation management decisions on both farms over the next three years and evaluating the outcome of decisions made on production and profitable use of water and power.

“We have worked with both Adam and Tom to install soil moisture monitoring equipment under a number of pivot irrigators, as well as use a weather based irrigation scheduling App, to help them make more informed irrigation decisions,” Ms White said. “The way in which they have used this information has been very different. Working with irrigation agronomist, Brian Thomson, the logged data has identified both new and lost opportunities across the farms.”

At an open day on Tuesday, November 27 starting at 10am, 488 Thunderbolts Way, Barrington, attendees can learn the technology used on the farms. 

Bookings essential, email Marguerite White at mwhite@icdprojectservices.com.au.