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Irrigators under pressure are offered help

Irrigators under pressure are offered help

IrrigationNZ is helping irrigators respond to increasing public pressure by educating them on how they can reduce their impact on New Zealand’s waterways.

The ‘Great Irrigation Challenge’, a training and information event, will also help irrigators understand what the government’s new freshwater policy means and how to respond to it with practical and technical solutions.

“In the context of extreme public scrutiny on water use for agriculture as a dairy farmer or industry investor, sharemilker, farm manager or staff member, your livelihood and business continuity more than ever requires a high level of knowledge, expertise and skill,” says Andrew Curtis IrrigationNZ CEO.

“Most irrigators want to operate more efficiently and effectively, but need better guidance on how to go about it. The Smits who farm near Oamaru, described in a case study below, are an example of how irrigators are improving their farm practices all the time.

“Irrigators need to know about Nutrient Budgets, Farm Environment Plans and the roll out of regional plans. They also need to be aware of new standards and codes of practice for the industry. This event will help them get the information and advice they need.”

With the support of principal sponsor Aqualinc, the ‘Great Irrigation Challenge’ will run over two days – Thursday 2 and Friday 3 October – in Ashburton, coinciding with the industry body’s AGM. Expert presenters from across the country will join IrrigationNZstaff in presenting the latest technical, environmental and best practice advice for irrigators. There are sixteen workshops on offer with topics as broad-ranging as ‘Reducing your Energy Bill’, ‘Managing Farm Irrigation Infrastructure’, ‘Building Irrigation and Effluent Storage Ponds’ to ‘Farm Environment Plans’. And to make it even easier to get there, you can attend several workshops or just one or two if time is tight. The event is for existing and potential irrigators including dairy support and dryland farmers.

The ‘Great Irrigation Challenge’ is supported by ANZ Bank, Environment Canterbury, Nelson Irrigation Corporation of Australia Pty Ltd and EECA.

Further information including registration details can be found on www.irrigationnz/co/nz/events-and-training or by phoning (03) 341 2225.

CASET STUDY: Sustainable irrigators: The Smits

The Smits had never considered soil moisture probes for their Oamaru dairy units until 2013 - when Steven and his father Corrie won a $3500 soil moisture monitoring package following the ‘Great Irrigation Challenge’.

Twelve months down the track the pair sold on its benefits

They are now planning to expand the monitoring system across their three North Otago farms.

Before they had the probes, this father and son with plenty of farming experience in both the South and North Islands, were comfortable assessing soil moisture the traditional way; examining the ground, checking vegetation growth and keeping an eye on the weather to predict when irrigation would be needed.

But having experienced how technology can save them water and money, they are not turning back.

Steven, who manages the property, says: “We have seen reductions in water use and we’re using water at better times. We know now when we turn irrigation on that we really need it, it’s not just a guess. And our application rate is lower, more like 5mls rather than 10mls which to be honest came as a surprise. Our soils seem to like getting little bits of irrigation rather than just one big hit and we’re definitely growing a lot more grass.”

“It’s gone really well. We used the system most days last summer. I’d just login using my phone, normally after milking, and plan what we were going to do with irrigation. It was good and reliable,” he says.

For Corrie, who resides in the Bay of Plenty and oversees his farm investments remotely, having access to monitoring technology provides him with new insights about how the farms are faring.

“From our point of view it’s great having a web-based programme. Living in Whakatane, with a farm in Oamaru, we can see how our staff (who is our son) is managing the application of water and we find it an excellent tool. We only have to log into a website and look at a graph,” says Corrie.

When the Smits bought the 360ha property five years ago, the farm was 100% border dyked. Over time they have reduced the borders to around 2/3 of the farm with 1/3 under spray. They are now looking to add centre pivots next summer and access to real time data means they can be confident the new system will run as efficiently as possible.

“I’ve been pretty surprised, that while you get to know your farm and how it looks, you’re not always 100%. This is a tool you can use to make sure you are getting it right,” says Steven.


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