Sunday, 4 December 2016

Is Your Irrigator in Top Nick?

The spring weather has brought more rain to many parts of New Zealand compared to previous seasons which has meant many irrigators have barely got off the starting blocks. This extended downtime is a perfect opportunity to give your irrigator a bit of TLC which will help ensure it is running at full capacity when the heat comes on.

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 - thanks to Grafton Irrigation for your input!

Thursday, 1 December 2016

Am I a Responsible Irrigator?

The current Government's focus on water as the way to double New Zealand's farm exports by 2025 is reflected in the increasing accessibility of irrigation to farms around the country. Although a resource consent may state a Farmers right to use this water to irrigate and an irrigation dealership would be more than obliging to install the hardware - this ability to irrigate comes with responsibility.

To achieve a high level of irrigation performance requires a well-designed, well managed and well maintained irrigation system.

Choosing an Accredited Irrigation Dealer will ensure that your irrigation system is well-designed and meets the Irrigation Design Code of Practice and Standards. To view the list of currently accredited companies, click here.

Once the system is up and running ensuring it is well managed and maintained is up the those that own and operate it. The following questions should be considered by all those who irrigate.

1. Does my irrigation system apply what I tell it to in a uniform manner?

Poor distribution uniformity and low irrigation efficiency costs money. 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 initial 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
- Irrig8lite
- DairyNZ

If you are not in favour of the DIY option then consider contacting an Accredited Evaluator, this would also be recommended if your own test identifies potential issues that warrant further investigation.

The Hydro Services Team carrying out an Irrigation System Evaluation

2. Am I applying the right amount of water to optimise growth and avoid drainage or leaching? 

Measuring and monitoring your soil moisture is the best way to manage your irrigation efficiently.  If you don’t know what your soil moisture content is then how do you know how much you need to apply? Without this information, you risk either under-irrigating which can affect plant growth or over-irrigating which can also be detrimental to plant growth and the environment. Both these scenarios impact profitability.

There are a number of options when it comes to measuring soil moisture, choosing the best option for your farm and then ensuring it is giving you accurate information however cannot be covered in one paragraph. There are many posts already on H2Grow that discuss this topic, use the “WHAT ARE YOU INTERESTED IN” menu to navigate to these, or subscribe so that you do not miss out on these in the future.

3. Is my irrigation system working as it should, and will it continue to do so in the long run?

Irrigation system checks and maintenance should be undertaken during the off-season and 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 to ensure that you don't miss it!

Tuesday, 22 November 2016

Legumes + Efficient Water Use = Great Results at Omarama Station

Omarama Station recently played host to the "Legumes in the High Country" field day, organised by Lincoln University and Beef + Lamb NZ. There was a good turnout of farmers and industry professionals to the farm owned and run by Richard and Annabelle Subtil, 2015 winners of the South Island Farmer of the Year competition. The focus for the day was the use of legume species in the high country environment with a short session on the use of irrigation and soil moisture monitoring in the arid environment that is the Mackenzie Country.

Omarama Station (Courtesty of Richard Subtil)
Omarama Station covers 12,000ha with a mixture of dryland high country and irrigated flats. The property has had significant development work undertaken and a number of centre pivot irrigators installed that irrigate 560ha. A large water storage pond has been constructed to supply water to the irrigation system.

Dr MS Srinivasan from NIWA gave the first presentation for the day at the site of the lysimeter that has recently been installed on the station. The lysimeter is the first in the Waitaki catchment and aims to build knowledge around drainage and soil water under the developing soils at Omarama Station. The site contains three catchment sleeves one of which has soil moisture sensors installed. Any drainage water from the site is measured which gives an indication of the soil moisture status and how drainage from the soil profile is taking place.

From a soil moisture point of view the lysimeter is important as the soils at Omarama Station have exceptionally variable fertility, structure and water holding capacity. Irrigation is not new to the area however the shift from border-dyke irrigation to more efficient spray irrigation has seen a massive change in the water use efficiency on extensive properties such as Omarama Station. Soil development under irrigation is an interesting concept and soils mapped on Omarama Station have shown to have varying levels of water holding capacity based on how long they have been irrigated for in the past. Investigation has shown that the depth of soil and the water holding capacity has improved under 30 years of irrigation. 

Irrigation at Omarama Station (Courtesy of Richard Subtil)
Agri Optics has installed three sub-surface AquaCheck probes that will complement the work being undertaken at the lysimeter site. This information will flow into the decision making process that is used around timing and quantity of irrigation water applied by the team at Omarama Station. 

Derrick Moot spoke on how selection of species was important to maximising water use efficiency in moisture deficient environments such as the Mackenzie Basin. As we know lucerne is a great fit into dryland high country systems. It has the ability to maximise the water use efficiency and has a high water to dry matter conversion ratio (kg DM/mm/ha). The selection of species going forward and the development of novel species all points towards maximising the efficiency of water use in dry high country areas.

Write up by Nick Evans

Friday, 18 November 2016

Lincoln University Dairy Farm Open Day 2016

This Saturday the Lincoln University Dairy Farm (LUDF) will open its gates to showcase the operations of a commercial dairy farm.
Visitors will get an opportunity to ‘get up close’ and learn about the transformation of ‘sunshine into food’. 
Included in the program is the importance of water to enable a dairy farm to produce milk that we get to enjoy on our Weetbix every morning.
The farm will be open to the public from 1pm-4pm. This is a great opportunity for anyone in the Christchurch and Canterbury region who has not had the opportunity to visit a dairy farm before.

For more details visit

Wednesday, 16 November 2016


Firstly, I’d like to say a big hello to all our blog followers reading this - I sincerely hope you’re enjoying the H2Grow blog that we’re putting together to help you gain more understanding about irrigation and ways in which you can increase the efficiency of not only the irrigation on your property but your farming system in general. But enough about that; let me introduce myself and my motivation for bringing the H2Grow blog to life…

I was born and bred on an arable farm in Mid Canterbury. Like Sarah Elliot I have very fond memories of growing up on the farm and following my Dad and Poppa around on the farm from a very young age. I had pet lambs, and calves, rode ponies, helped feed out, shifted break fences, drove tractors and as I got older, shifted gun irrigators. Because of my love for farming and everything outdoors after I finished high school I went to Lincoln University to study a Bachelor of Agricultural Science. I loved my time at Lincoln, however was getting itchy feet as lots of my friends were travelling so in the third year of my four year degree I decided to get my own travel fix while still continuing my studies by undertaking a year of ‘Study Abroad’ at Colorado State University in the USA. I had an absolute blast and got to take specialist papers on things such as irrigation and Precision Agriculture that we couldn’t do here in NZ which made me think how we could adopt some of the cool things they were doing on farms in the USA back here in NZ. So, I came back to NZ, completed my degree and fresh out of Uni and a bit green, started New Zealand’s first specialist Precision Ag company Agri Optics New Zealand in conjunction with my parents. Over the years we’ve grown the company both in terms of size and also the range of products and services that we offer. We’re now up to a staff of four people and we offer our products and services across the whole of New Zealand.

Discussing the benefits of precision agriculture technologies and practices at a North Otago field day following some very successful trials on the property
While I’m not as hands-on on the cropping farm that I used to be in my younger days, I still keep my hands in the mix with helping with Precison Ag decision making. I also have moved (slightly) further south to Geraldine, South Canterbury where my husband’s family have a sheep & beef farm. The two types of farming are completely different and both offer their unique challenges and advantages. I feel privileged to be involved with both & hopefully with increases in efficiency and the use of technology will be able to take these farms forward sustainably and allow our daughter the upbringing on the farm that my husband and I both have such fond memories of.

Hard at work dosing ewes and lambs on our lease block with Paige learning the ropes
It’s been a great journey so far and I’m sure the future will be just as exciting!

Jemma Mulvihill