Saturday, 28 November 2015 16:26

Plan to get most from farm irrigation

Written by 
IrrigationNZ says a severe El Nino could mean many farmers will run short of water half way through this season. IrrigationNZ says a severe El Nino could mean many farmers will run short of water half way through this season.

With strong indications of an El Nino this summer, farmers are being urged to plan how they will use their seasonal irrigation volume.

IrrigationNZ says a severe El Nino could mean many farmers will run short of water half way through this season.

INZ chief executive Andrew Curtis was responding to NIWA's prediction that the current El Nino pattern is on track to be "the second most intense since 1950", with soils around the country drying out fast and irrigation in full swing as temperatures rise.

Guidelines released recently by the government urged farmers to use irrigation water efficiently and plan for water restrictions as they prepared for El Nino.

MetService says the pool of abnormally warm seas centred on the equator now extends right across the Pacific Ocean from South America to Vanuatu. Sea temperatures in August across the central Pacific exceeded 2 degrees above normal. It is the strongest El Nino since 1997-98, by all indicators.

Curtis says the focus for irrigators needs to be on spreading their water allocations further this season.

"Timing is everything in a marginal season. Irrigators need to start the season well and maintain consistent performance. Inefficient irrigation now will have a huge impact on whether your irrigation volume will see you through to March.

"Irrigation scheduling is central to this, particularly now irrigators are limited in the water they have in seasonal volumes. With water meters in place, irrigating farmers should be watching closely what they are using, regularly reviewing soil moisture levels and crop requirements and applying water as efficiently as possible. Following the dry winter there's no
room for waste or poor performance as every drop of water will be needed this summer. We recommend sitting down and planning your water budgets."

Appropriate irrigation scheduling, maintaining irrigation equipment and keeping it performing to specification will minimise down-time, leakage or delivery problems, Curtis says.

"Ensuring irrigators are working as they should guarantees you're getting the best from the water you apply. Simple early-season calibration checks can save a lot of water over the season and are a no-brainer to do. Some systems may be 20-30% out and using more water than you need will shorten your irrigation budget significantly."

As the season goes on, regular maintenance will be essential, says Curtis.

"Checking pressure and sprinklers is recommended.


Tips for summer

      • Calibrate your irrigator: knowing exactly how much water your irrigator is applying is essential for making good irrigation decisions
      • Minimise off target application: look at where your irrigation is landing
      • Identify your soil types and estimate water holding capacity, field capacity and irrigation trigger points: knowing how much water your soil can hold is the key to successful irrigation scheduling
      • Schedule your irrigation: using soil moisture sensors or soil water budgets to understand when plants need irrigation and how much to apply is essential
      • Adopt deficit irrigation practices: deficit irrigation is a scheduling practice that keeps the soil water above the irrigation trigger point but does not fully recharge the soil to field capacity
      • Re-nozzle your irrigator: reducing the nozzle sizes on your irrigator is an easy way to reduce application depths and tailor applications to a restricted water supply
      • Prioritise crops or paddocks to be irrigated. 

More like this

Unreal hot air

OPINION: The Hound is perplexed about some of the over-the-top climate catastrophising by mainstream media outlets during the holidays.

New water policy direction

IrrigationNZ submitted a briefing last month to the new Government this week on how water capture, storage, and efficient use can grow economic prosperity, support New Zealand's exports, and ensure long term regional resilience. Here's part of what Vanessa Winning, chief executive of IrrigationNZ, said:


Lower Aus exports, good news for NZ

Australia's dairy import and export mix is "slowly trading places" with export volumes falling sharply in recent years while imports have spiked, according to Rabobank.

Taylor-made for recovery

A year ago, Cyclone Gabrielle wreaked havoc at family-owned Taylors orchard and packhouse in Hawke's Bay.

Covid's urban/rural divide

According to a new study from the University of Otago, there was a visible rural/urban divide in Covid-19 vaccination rates.

Long-term plan needed

Well before Cyclone Gabrielle struck, Richard Burke was advocating for a long-term sustainable infrastructure plan for the Tairawhiti region.


DCANZ rejects Canadian proposals

New Zealand dairy processors are rejecting new Canadian proposals for the administration of its dairy tariff rate quotas (TRQs) under…

Machinery & Products

Twin-axle slurry tankers on debut

French manufacturer Pichon, imported and retailed in New Zealand by Norwood, has introduced two new twin-axle ‘Slurry Vacuum’ SV slurry…

Make that large please!

KUHN Farm Machinery has introduced a new flagship FC 13460 RA trailed mower conditioner, in the shape of the FC…

» Latest Print Issues Online

Milking It

Cows meta to Zuckerberg

OPINION: Mark Zuckerberg's multimillion- dollar housing project on Hawaii is attracting a lot of interest.

» Connect with Dairy News

» eNewsletter

Subscribe to our weekly newsletter