Friday, 11 August 2017

The irrigation season is just around the corner…

With the days getting longer and the weather getting warmer (I’m sure it’s too good to be true!) spring growth will soon be kicking into gear and irrigation season will be just around the corner. Now is the time to be ensuring that you’re as prepared as you can be for the irrigation season.

If you’re an irrigated farmer now is the time to be thinking about how you’re going to schedule your irrigation throughout the upcoming season. The days of scuffing the dirt with your boot and having a dig with a spade are fast coming to their end with the need for on-farm soil moisture monitors such as the AquaCheck probe, to give some more accurate numbers to the soil moisture levels than a scuff of your boot on the soil. Having soil moisture probes installed on farm not only helps you make better irrigation decisions but it also gives you some hard and fast data to have when it comes to Farm Environment Plan (or the likes) auditing.

Soil moisture probes for use this coming season should be being installed now or over the next few weeks ideally. All continuous soil moisture measurement devices take a period of a few weeks to ‘settle down’ and give accurate readings post installation.

At Agri Optics we have a great soil moisture probe in the AquaCheck probe as part of our suite.

The key things to note on these probes compared others (other than their great price) are as follows:
·         They’re fully telemetered, giving you access to view up-to-date soil moisture data and make timely decisions based on current, actual data
·         They’re a vertical oriented probe that has multiple soil moisture sensors down their length, giving you a total soil moisture trace and soil moisture traces at each different sensor depth. This means that you can see how the soil moisture moves down through the soil profile and how effective you’re being with your irrigation management. The bottom sensor is also a good ‘check’ for drainage leaving the root zone
·         The AquaCheck probe has built-in soil temperature sensors – a good gauge to be able to better manage irrigation and fertiliser timings in the shoulders of the season in particular
·         They have the option of connecting to rain gauges to give accurate records of rainfall and irrigation at each soil moisture probe site
·         They have a short ‘settling’ time post install compared to most of their competitors, meaning that you’ll get useful data to make decisions off in a short time frame
·         They’re easy to install and uninstall, making them great for seasonal cropping situations
·         They’re very competitively priced
·         There are multiple depth option so that the depth of the probe installed can be matched to your farming system and requirements
·         In NZ they’ve got Agri Optics behind them, to help you, the farmer understand and interpret soil moisture readings and get the most out of soil moisture probes for irrigation scheduling

You can also view more information on the AquaCheck probes on our website:

If you’re interested in the AquaCheck probes or need a soil moisture solution for this season please don’t hesitate to contact one of the Agri Optics Team for some more information and a quote.  

All the best for an upcoming irrigation season & year ahead!


Wednesday, 12 July 2017

The Ultimate Add-On for Cost Efficient Irrigation

Growsmart Precision VRI with FieldNET is the ultimate add-on for easy and cost efficient irrigation, Maniototo sheep and beef farmer Hamish Mackenzie says.

“It’s simple, easy to use and gives you heaps of flexibility. I can sort and upload a watering plan and set it going at the push of a button,” Hamish says.

Hamish Mackenzie uses Growsmart Precision VRI to apply the right amount of water, in the right place at the right time at Kyeburn Station
At Kyeburn Station, an extensive 3300ha sheep and beef property, 260ha of flats are irrigated. Half the area is watered by a 570 meter Zimmatic centre-pivot. It was installed with Growsmart Precision VRI in 2015 and in November 2016 was upgraded with FieldNET, a remote communication tool making it possible to control Growsmart Precision VRI from any internet-capable device. The limited cell phone coverage means Hamish is not set up for complete remote control but FieldNET has given him greater flexibility over irrigation. And he says the new updated system is far superior to its predecessor.

“I do all of my irrigation plans on the home computer. If we had reliable cell phone coverage I’d be able to send them remotely to the pivot but because we don’t I put them on a memory stick which I then plug into the pivot panel of the irrigator. It’s really simple and straightforward.”

The touchscreen panel allows farmers to easily make changes to irrigation plans out in the field.
This season the pivot watered 37ha of Relish red clover-based pasture; 28ha of lucerne; 12ha of barley; 17ha of swedes; and 7ha fodder beet. The patchwork of different crops, each with different watering requirements throughout the season could have made irrigation planning and management a headache. But the combination of Growsmart VRI and FieldNET made it surprisingly straightforward.

“You can add in as many different fields as needed, and alter the watering rates on each or keep them out of the rotation as required. That’s the beauty of VRI and FieldNET, it’s so easy to alter things.”
Installation of FieldNET was about $1,000 on top of the Growsmart VRI but he reckons he’s easily recouped the cost – and saved water. Efficient use of water is a number one priority given the region’s 500mm annual rainfall and extended summer dry periods.  Water is taken from the Kyeburn River, from a main race which Hamish shares with four farms. He has a 52l/s allocation but over the last year the combination of Growsmart Precision VRI and FieldNET has reduced pivot water use to about 43l/s.

“I’ve been able to cut back the percentage flow through the pivot in summer and we’ve been able to use the extra if needed for k-line irrigation. Also we’ve saved money because we’re not having to pump as much water and we don’t need as much pressure.”

Irrigation development at Kyeburn Station started after completion of tenure review in 2009.
“We surrendered 4700ha of hill country to the Crown in 2009 so we had to intensify what we were doing.”

The goal was to maintain the same number of stock units by ramping up production on flat country. They purchased some neighbouring land that was irrigated, and added another 100ha pivot. There is now 260ha under irrigation, of that 180ha is covered by two Zimmatic pivots, one of which has Growsmart Precision VRI and FieldNET.

“I will sometime in the future retro fit the older Zimmatic pivot with Growsmart Precision VRI as well. I think it’s really important given the push by regional councils to encourage farmers to use less water and become smarter with how they irrigate.”

Lindsay NZ

Thursday, 15 June 2017

'Tips, Tools & Technology for Efficient Farming' - Workshop Series

Do you want to improve the nutrient and irrigation management on your farm but are not sure where to start? Come along to a free 'Tips, Tools & Technology for Efficient Farming' workshop jointly hosted by Lindsay NZ, Agri Optics New Zealand Ltd and Irricon Resource Solutions.

Over the course of the workshop we'll cover off a range of topics from nutrient management, irrigation management and hardware, precision agriculture and how these all tie in with farm environment plans for efficient farming.

Please use this link to register - Register me for a workshop please!

We look forward to seeing you there

Tuesday, 9 May 2017

EM and High Salinity Soils

As mentioned before in previous blogs, an EM survey measures the soil's electrical conductivity. The soil reading responds primarily to soil texture changes where clay gives a higher reading than silt, which in turn gives a higher reading than sand and, in cases where salinity levels are elevated, it shows up very strongly with values far higher than expected (salinity issues are a rare occurrence, but it is worth mentioning, hence the blog!).

Salinity has a huge influence on the sensor's readings, for example in an area where there are no salinity issues we can see EM readings in the deeper soil profile that are anywhere from 10 to in excess of 50 mS/m (the individual survey range can vary more or less). However when salinity is present in the soil, the profile the readings can be anywhere from 80 - 650 mS/m (EM units of measure) in the top 125cm of the soil profile.

In extreme cases there are also visible signs in the crop itself, where salt crystals can be seen on the plants as well as showing areas of very poor growth compared to areas with lower or no salt issues.

Picture: 1 - Salt crystals are visible on the plants.

Picture: 2 - Patches of poorer grass can be seen in areas of very high salinity. Initially it may appear that these very high readings (80-650 mS/m) totally mask the EM results (normal range maybe 10-50 mS/m) however, work we have done indicates the saline levels are still relative to the soil texture and drainage.

Picture3 - EM readings over 500 mS/m, with clay at 20cm and grey clay from 30cm in the soil profile. In areas of poor drainage we often see very high readings as the salt is unable to drain away. Background plant growth looks stressed and in a poor condition.

Picture: 4 - EM readings in the 80s indicate sandy soils that are freer draining. The reason for this, in a  high salinity scenario, is that more of the salt has managed to drain away over time so the readings are far lower (but still elevated) than a clay based profile. As can be seen background plant growth looks far greener.
Where salt is an issue - the lower EM readings (80-150 mS/m) are found in the free draining, sandier soils because the salt has been able to move out of the deeper profile.  In the poorly drained areas with higher clay content, we find higher EM readings (350-650 mS/m) as the salt cannot leech out of the soil profile over time.

It is clear that the soil texture and drainage are related to concentration of salinity within the EM survey area in a site with salt issues.

Land use and management also play an important part in the concentrations of salt in the soil profile. In areas that have been irrigated extensively there tends to be relatively low levels of salt and lower EM readings, however in areas where salinity is an issue that have not had a great deal of irrigation, it is likely that the salts have not been washed out and therefore the readings are much higher.

An EM survey is a very good place to start if you know you have salinity issues on your land to gauge where the worst areas are and by comparing with crop biomass maps and other yield data the levels of salinity impacting on your crop production can be highlighted. For more information on EM surveying see our website or contact us directly.

Chris Smith

Operations Manager Agri Optics NZ Ltd 

Thursday, 27 April 2017

Introducing the Next Generation in Irrigation Management - FieldNET Advisor™

FieldNET® by Lindsay has announced a revolutionary new solution to simplify your irrigation management - FieldNET Advisor™.

FieldNET Advisor is designed to provide growers with simple, science-based irrigation recommendations to enable faster, better-informed irrigation management decisions.

This innovative solution combines more than 40 years of crop and irrigation research into FieldNET’s proven technology platform, leveraging massive amounts of data, cloud computing capabilities, and machine learning to deliver growers one easy-to-use tool.

Key Benefits

FieldNET Advisor helps growers in their efforts to maximize their profitability through better irrigation management by helping them to better:
  • Maximize yield output and crop performance by reducing crop water stress and nutrient leaching
  • Reduce input costs and conserve water by reducing the likelihood of overwatering and the resulting loss of key nutrients
  • Save time and labor by providing quick, simple and intuitive irrigation management recommendations and alerts

How it Works
  1. Enter your crop types, hybrids and planting dates.
  2. FieldNET Advisor automatically combines this data with soil maps, hyper-local weather information, and as-applied irrigation history across your field.
  3. By tracking crop growth stage and root depth to monitor the amount of moisture available in the soil, FieldNET Advisor forecasts your crop's future water needs.
  4. FieldNET Advisor then makes recommendations on when, where and how much to irrigate, helping you improve your water use efficiency and enhance your profitability.
  5. Irrigation recommendations are automatically sent to your phone or computer through email or text messaging so that you can react in real-time.

FieldNET® by Lindsay have currently announced FieldNET Advisor in North American and will introduce into further regions/countries over a period of time. For more information visit and sign up to stay informed when it is available in your area.

The content provided in today's blog is courtesy of FieldNET® by Lindsay.