Thursday, 8 November 2018

Ashburton A&P Show

Agri Optics showcased their services at the 141st annual A&P show in Ashburton on the 26th and 27th October, to catch up with existing clients and field enquiries from prospective clients. Despite the torrential rain while setting up on the Thursday, the show days themselves were thankfully a great deal better. I thought I’d write a blog about the sort of questions the team were answering as a point of interest to those who weren’t able to make it.

Picture 1: Nick Evans and Lucy Murray on a muddy Friday morning after finishing set up!
The theme of this year’s show was chosen by the President David Butterick and was “Irrigation – the life blood of mid Canterbury” – this is a great fit for Agri Optics’ services and solutions. It was also the topic we fielded most enquiries about!


Picture 2 & 3: The team answering clients enquiries.

There was much interest in EM surveying and how it can be used for variable rate irrigation to make better use of water, as well as a helping make more informed decisions on where to place your moisture probes.  We had people enquire about using their EM maps and VRI to conserve water and use that water elsewhere on the farm with potentially large savings to be made by not having to buy more water shares.


Picture 4 & 5: Areas of most discussion EM surveying and AquaCheck moisture probes!

The main point of discussion however was about moisture probes; from looking at the different options available to the different telemetry types and other sensors that can be added to the systems. From weather stations to milk vat monitoring to comply with the MPI Milk Cooling legislation that came into force in June 2018.

We ran many clients through their AquaCheck graphs and explained what they were seeing, things to avoid like getting spikes going through all the profile layers and how much water to put on and where the moisture trace should be sitting at different times of the year, which was very similar to the workshops we ran a couple of months ago. If you are unsure of what your AquaCheck Web graphs are telling you then please get in touch and we can help run you through the data, or if we are in your area we are happy to come and see you to go through it all. So just get in touch as making informed decisions is of paramount importance.

We will be at the Innovation Vineyard field day in Blenheim, which is run by the Marlborough Grape Growers Cooperative on the 14th November, the NZ Effluent expo at Mystery Creek on the 27-28 November, and at the FAR Crops event in Chertsey on 5th December. We look forward to catching up at one of these or other events in the coming months.

Agri Optics

Sunday, 4 November 2018

Is your irrigator due for a service?

Regular maintenance, just like servicing your car, will help ensure your irrigation system is running at full capacity when the heat comes on. Irrigation system checks and servicing should be undertaken at scheduled times over the irrigation season (the more hours your irrigator runs for the more regularly these checks should be carried out). 

In many cases you can refer to your irrigation systems instruction manual for details on servicing and maintenance checks.

Many simple checks and servicing like lubricating joints, replacing oil in gearboxes and looking for signs of fatigue can often be carried out by farm staff. However, should you be unsure or think that you might have detected an issue don’t hesitate to contact your irrigation dealer. 

Grafton Irrigation (Zimmatic dealer based in South Canterbury) have put together a handy checklist to guide you through the checks and maintenance that will help prevent mid-season issues. The checklist covers your intake, pump shed and mainline, and pivot, hard hose, soft hose, K-line and G-set (solid set) type irrigation systems. Print yourself a copy using the link below.


This post has been written by Sarah Elliot from Lindsay NZ - thanks to Grafton Irrigation for your input!

Tuesday, 30 October 2018

Irrigation Evaluations (aka Bucket Testing) - Including tips for testing VRI systems

Spring is here but we are seeing all four seasons rolled into one some weeks which is not an anomaly. The soil moisture levels in our region have had a healthy boost in the last few days but if the media reports are true we may be in for a dry summer - please don't shoot the messenger, I'm only relaying what I have heard.

Should this transpire then that is even more reason to ensure that our irrigation systems are applying water as efficiently as possible so that we are maximising the amount of water applied that is available for plants to grow. An irrigation evaluation is a way to assess the efficiency and distribution uniformity of your irrigation system to ensure it is performing as expected.

An irrigation evaluation will help identify causes of any poor performance and (sometimes with the assistance of a qualified professional) show how these can be resolved. Increasing irrigation effectiveness and efficiency will allow you to grow more for less.

An irrigation evaluation (often referred to as a bucket test) is simple enough to carry out yourself, there are several good guides freely available to walk you through this process. For more information check out:

IrrigationNZ - Bucket Testing Resources
DairyNZ - Irrigation Evaluation Guide

The guides recommended above will walk you through how to carry out a standard bucket test however before you begin you need to consider any additional technologies that enhance your irrigation system. For instance if your system has variable rate irrigation (VRI) technology then you will need to take this into account when planning your bucket test. Lindsay NZ, the developers of the Growsmart Precision VRI system, have created a step-by-step guide that explain these additional considerations in more detail.

Growsmart Precision VRI - Bucket Testing Tip Card

If you are not in favour of the DIY irrigation evaluation option then consider contacting an accredited evaluator, this would also be recommended if your own test identifies potential issues that warrant further investigation. If you have additional technology such as a VRI system then ensure that whoever is carrying out the test is aware of this and that they carry out the recommended additional steps. If you need further help then contact your irrigation dealer, many dealers also have accredited evaluators on hand.

Irrigation system checks and maintenance should be undertaken at scheduled times over the irrigation season (the more hours your irrigator runs for the more regularly these checks should be carried out). Recommended irrigation system maintenance will be covered in more detail in the next H2Grow blog post, this will include a checklist that you can download and print off to help you with this task.

Keep an eye out for the next post or subscribe by entering your email in the box to the top right of the screen to ensure that you don't miss it!

Today's blog was written by Sarah Elliot from Lindsay NZ - I hope you have found it useful!



Sunday, 30 September 2018

Key Learnings from the IrrigationNZ Study Tour to Nebraska


I was part of a 24-person group who went to Nebraska at the start of September 2018.  The tour was organised by IrrigationNZ and was an amazing opportunity to go and see how another part of the world deals with the same issues that we have here.  Below is an overview of my key learnings from the tour.  



Governance of Water
The governance of water in Nebraska is complex. There is Federal legislation, such as the
Endangered Species Act, which the state has to abide by. Alongside this there are also Federal agencies, such as the Bureau of Reclamation that control most of the surface water through storage and diversion infrastructure. The state then sets its own laws around how it will manage its water.

In Nebraska the surface water is manged at state level by the Department of Natural Resources, but groundwater is managed by Natural Resource District’s (NRD) at a local level. For a number of surface water bodies, there are also interstate pacts that determine how much water must remain in the river to reach downstream states.

The NRD’s have a Board that is democratically elected, and are often dominated by rural people including farmers. Despite this, the farmer representatives have been proactive in driving practical change among their peers.  

The NRD system in Nebraska has been very successful in managing groundwater. All takes are controlled through a well permit system that allows for a given number of hectares to be irrigated per well.

Both of the NRD’s that we visited had invested heavily in science to help them better understand their resource. They also look for solutions as both a farm and catchment level, the latter including raising capital to build environmental infrastructure such as that required for augmentation projects.  

Conjunctive Management
‘Conjunctive management’ is a recent development in Nebraska that has largely come about through the management of ground and surface water takes in ‘conjunction’ to achieve interstate pacts. This has involved the NRD’s (the managers of the groundwater) working closely with irrigation districts and the Department of Natural Resources to ensure downstream flows are achieved.

This has included restriction of individual water takes (wells) – controlling any new ones, limiting the irrigated area from existing ones and in some cases placing a seasonal limit on usage. Alongside the implementation of environmental infrastructure such as Managed Aquifer Recharge and Stream Augmentation projects.

Managing Water Quality
Nitrates in groundwater are of significant concern in the heavily irrigated districts of central Nebraska. In some areas over 50% of the land is now under irrigated crop-farming. Historic poor nutrient management (type and timing) and poor irrigation practice resulted in nitrate concentrations being frequently observed over 30ppm – well over the US drinking water standard of 10ppm.

However, in recent years there has been a significant declining trend, with relatively few areas now exceeding 20ppm. This has largely been brought about by a non-regulatory approach.

State law requires the production of water quality and quantity management plans that identify the issues and then require the development of an implementation plan to address them. All the NRD’s have a rule framework, but most of the rules are currently focused on managing water takes and farming practice reporting. Incentives, knowledge and enabling peer to peer learning in combination with environmental infrastructure is currently seen as the way forward for water quality.

The widespread move from surface flood to centre pivot irrigation has been instrumental in reducing nitrate losses to groundwater. This has enabled soils to be irrigated on an ‘as and when’ basis to minimise nitrate leaching. There is now also a push towards the more widespread adoption of fertigation, as it allows ‘as and when’ nutrient applications – significantly reducing the risk of leaching from rainfall events.

Public perception
Despite the widespread use of intensive farming methods, and the water quality and quantity challenges facing Nebraska, the one issue currently not facing farmers at the state level is pressure from the anti-farming lobby or environmental groups.

Of the almost 2 million people living in Nebraska, the majority understand the role of crop farming and ranching in providing for their social-economic well-being. The Nebraskan economy is based on the irrigation of almost 4 million hectares of corn and soy beans and this is widely understood. 

The University of Nebraska research and extension service runs an outreach programme to attract the next generation to agriculture. This currently interacts with one in every three school age children in the state, providing an agriculture ‘101’ and highlighting the exciting career opportunities that exist within it.

Keri Johnston, Irricon
Natural Resources Engineer

Tuesday, 18 September 2018

It's starting to get dry...

Other than this slightly cooler snap we've had over the last couple of days you'd have to say spring is well and truly here! And with these nor-west winds (in Canterbury anyway) and warmer days things are starting to dry out and there's not much rain on the horizon. The seasonal weather outlook from NIWA suggests that we're in for a dryer than average season in most places (https://www.niwa.co.nz/climate/seasonal-climate-outlook/seasonal-climate-outlook-september-november-2018) and at this point I'd have to say they're about on the money. 

The joys of being a farmer or in the ag industry is that everything you do hinges on the weather, so we get really good (for the most-part) at managing timings and inputs and reading the signs to optimise what we do on farm. Now is no different. Whether you're an irrigated farmer or a dryland one now is the time to be installing your soil moisture probes if you haven't done so already so that you can accurately measure and manage your soil moisture and timings of related inputs on farm. 

Soil moisture probes allow you to know whats going on under your feet and make accurate and timely decisions to set yourself, your farm, your crops and your livestock up to perform to the best of their ability for the coming season. Soil moisture is one of the key drivers for plant growth so it's important that we know where we're currently sitting in terms of soil moisture levels so we can react to it accordingly. Decisions around fertiliser (and other input) timings, timing and amount of irrigation, stock carrying-capacity decisions etc can all be driven by more accurate information regarding soil moisture levels. 

If you want to find out more about some of the leading soil moisture probes in the NZ market have a look here: https://bit.ly/2OyeVj1 


And if you're wanting to get some installed for the coming season please pick up the phone and give the Agri Optics team a call now before you run out of time and you're left carrying a spade in the back of your ute or ruining the tip of your good pocket knife for the upcoming summer. 



All the best for an upcoming and prosperous season ahead! 

Cheers, 
Jemma