Most vineyards require irrigation at some point. Deciding when and how much is required is a powerful management tool that directly affects fruit production, disease pressure, and even operational passes.
“They can apply urea when it suits them, at a quantity based on pasture supply and demand,” Pile says.
“At the same time, through fertigation farmers don’t need to worry about people coming onto their farms spreading viruses and everyone can rest assured that such a method of fertiliser application is friendly to the environment.”
Pile has worked with fertigation for ten years and joined forces with Andy Nurse in 2018 to establish Fertigation Systems.
He says the company vision is “helping farmers enhance their environment and protect their future”.
“Given the numerous government and regional council demands being placed on farmers along with questions around a ‘license to farm’, we like to think we are the ideal answer,” Pile says.
He says fertigation helps solve several issues that are facing all irrigated farmers.
Fertigation increases nitrogen efficiency, meaning farmers can apply less fertiliser and produce the same milk volume. Achieving more with less, allows them to beat the 190kg N cap government regulation.
He says the other plus of fertigation is to successfully address the N surplus or N quantity that farmers need to reduce by up to 35% in the next three to five years.
Fertigation allows farmers to quickly and easily adjust how much fertiliser they apply, based on seasonal and weather conditions. If the grass starts growing fast, they can reduce or not apply any nitrogen the next day.
Convenience is another big factor why farmers are requesting that we install fertigation units, says Pile.
The four to five days that it takes between ordering urea and for a truck to get onto the paddocks are days that the pasture doesn’t receive the optimum nutrient levels to grow. With fertigation they get the nutrients on the next day after grazing, allowing them to grow more grass.
“Farmers and their partners have told us they feel more in control of their fertiliser applications through fertigation, which allows them to focus on other important tasks,” says Pile.
“One farmer would spend a whole day sorting out how much urea to apply on what paddock based on the maps the managers gave him. Now, he has allocated that task back to the managers and he reviews what they have completed by looking at his phone or computer each week.”
Fertigation Systems custom designs a system based on the farm’s existing irrigation system, farmer requirements and fertiliser types.
Pile points out that a fertigation unit is not just a dosing pump and a tank. It includes robust injection pumps, flow meters, tank level indicators, text alerts and control from a smart phone or office computer.
Pile says Fertigation Systems installation fully complies with ECAN regulations, permits for chemigation valves, interlocking power supply and bunding if required.
“We train all the staff who will be using the system and show them how to get the most out of the unit,” he says.