Thursday, 29 September 2016

Improving Irrigation Efficiency for Only $50

Dr Anthony Davoren is renowned as one of New Zealand’s leading irrigation consultants, establishing Hydroservices in 1983. If you have a question about irrigation management, soil and soil water assessment or surface and groundwater water resources then Tony will have the answer. What sets Tony apart is his practical, hands-on approach and the way he communicates information in a way that farmers can easily understand and relate to… I mean how many other speakers will you find presenting from a hole in the ground!

The Waihao Wainono Group and Morven Glenavy Irrigation recently hosted a field day focusing on improving irrigation efficiency. H2Grow is lucky enough to be able to share with you some short videos from this day. In the first in this series Tony explains how the root depth of the pasture or crop you are growing should be considered when deciding on the most appropriate soil moisture measuring equipment for your property.

Considering Root Depth when Measuring your Soil Moisture Levels

Keep a look out for the next video in this series where Tony explains how to measure drainage so that you can better manage your irrigation and prevent irrigation water, and nutrients, draining through the soil... and his top tips of how to greatly improve your systems irrigation efficiency for as little as $50!

Thank you to Dr Anthony Davoren, Waihao Wainono Group and Morven Glenavy Irrigation.

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

Soil Properties Critical when Applying Effluent

Dairy effluent is a great source of nutrients for growing pasture. But if not managed properly effluent can also be a significant source of contaminants which harm our waterways. Understanding how soil properties affect nutrient loss is a key to maximising the benefits of effluent on farm and minimising its impacts on waterways.

Soil texture and structure determine the amount of water that can enter and be retained within a particular soil, and the rate of transmission of excess water through that soil. So effluent irrigation systems should be matched to soil properties to minimise runoff and leaching. The rate at which effluent can be applied to the land for maximum production benefit is determined by the soil’s properties including structure, porosity and infiltration rate.

The nature of the effluent and cattle treading on soils can affect the infiltration rate. Treading damage, which occurs most when the soils are wet, significantly reduces the infiltration rate. For some soils this can result in accumulation of effluent below slopes and in hollows. It can then enter surface waterways.

Movement of water through soil pores is generally described as hydraulic conductivity. When hydraulic conductivity of the soil is low, irrigation of effluent will result in ponding and run-off once the total water capacity of the soil is exceeded or if application rate exceeds infiltration rate.

Low rates of hydraulic conductivity are found in soils that are poorly drained, and ponding and runoff often occur with high rainfall. Many of these soils are artificially drained to reduce the incidence of ponding and water-logging, and this carries a risk that effluent can bypass the soil and be directed rapidly into waterways

Leaching occurs as excess water moves through the soil. So soils with lower water holding capacity are more susceptible to leaching, while soils with high water holding capacity (deep silt loams) can store significant quantities of effluent.

The soils that have low available water holding capacities, are the shallow to moderately deep soils, as well as sandy or stony soils. Effluent irrigation on these soils is likely to result in leaching unless it is applied at low rates and in small doses. The irrigation system on these soils must be capable of low rates of application to gain the maximum nutrient benefit.

Drainage and the level of biological activity of the soil at the application site are important. Aim to apply effluent at a rate that keeps it in the root zone so that the nutrients can be utilised by pasture.

Permeable soils with a deep water table and no drainage limits are best for putting effluent on. However, on stony soils the risk of effluent draining directly to ground water would be an issue to consider. In such situations, application depths and rates should be adjusted to account for this risk.

Another issue is "bypass flow". When effluent application rates are higher than infiltration rates, water can enter continuous macro-pores that are open at the soil surface, and then move very rapidly via so-called "bypass flow" through a relatively dry soil matrix. This means little opportunity for the water to be retained within the root zone and high leaching of nitrate is likely to occur. Bypass flow of farm dairy effluent can occur in soils that undergo shrinkage and fissuring during drying, especially when these soils have been previously compacted by treading.

Efficient effluent storage provides flexibility when it comes to application and helps maximise nutrient uptake (image: DairyNZ)
A key to avoiding over application can be having adequate effluent storage so that irrigation can be deferred if conditions aren’t right. DairyNZ has released a new smart-phone app to help farmers apply effluent more efficiently. The Dairy Effluent Spreading Calculator app provides dairy farmers and effluent spreading contractors with guidance around nutrient application rates based on the depth and type of effluent they apply.

H2Grow would like to thank Bala Tikkisetty for this blog post. Bala is a sustainable agriculture advisor at the Waikato Regional Council.

If  you are keen for further information about best practice for applying effluent you will find a raft of useful information on the Waikato Regional Council website.

Or alternatively contact Bala directly, email or call (freephone) 0800 800 401.

Wednesday, 14 September 2016

Introducing: NICOLE MESMAN

Today's contributor profile introduces Nicole Mesman. Nicole's energy is inspiring. Her intellect and fortitude to challenge the conventional are just two of many reasons that we hope she does not spread her wings too far astray in the future, as agriculture is sure to benefit from retaining talent of her calibre.


I am a born and bred Cantabrian, from Christchurch, however I am continuing to spread my wings and experience the rural Mid-Canterbury. My childhood was filled with tramping, skiing and hunting holidays and from a young teenager I would say that I wanted to work with and in the environment and outdoors. Aside from rabbit shooting and hunting I never really did a lot on farms growing up. Lincoln drew me in at the end of high school, not for agriculture though but for biogeoscience (which I would realise was a fancy name for soil science). 

Once I got to Lincoln though my perspective and direction started to change. It’s hard not to get roped into agriculture when at Lincoln. Especially when your friends are doing projects like putting nappies on cows, monitoring cows grazing throughout the night and separating different swards of grass from endless piles of clippings. They were always looking for helpers, the fun we had!

It was a third year soils paper that introduced me to precision ag. We were out digging holes at Craige Mackenzie’s to create a soil map and also determine if the properties of the soils we found agreed with his EM map (the relationship was a good one I will add). After this I spent my summer making cakes out of soil, sand and water to review soil moisture sensors and then continued with my honours which analysed the effect of grazing and irrigation on soil physical properties. 

After Lincoln I worked for Lindsay as a summer student looking at their irrigation systems and EM mapping on various farms before going on to work for Ballance Agri-Nutrients. I am constantly learning more about agriculture and farming and I love it. Whenever I can find out about someone’s operation, learn from them and likewise share what I have learnt with them is a very good day.

Nicole fills up most of her weekends with outdoor pursuits; tramping, skiing, hunting and learning the ropes of day-to-day farm jobs

Nicole Mesman

Monday, 12 September 2016

Introducing: NICK EVANS

Second in our series of H2Grow contributor profiles we would like to introduce Nick Evans. Nick is a Precision Ag Technician at Agri Optics NZ based in Methven. His enthusiasm and fresh perspective coupled with learnings through his Lincoln University studies are an asset to the H2Grow Team.


Nick analysing EM survey data of an irrigated area for a customer 
I grew up in rural town Ashburton so exposure to agriculture was certain. Once getting under way in high school and after getting sick of washing trucks for my parents my dad sorted me out with a job working for a friend of his out in Wakanui. From then my interest in ag progressed. It wasn’t long before I would show up in the school holidays, be given a list of jobs to do and was left to looking after the farm whilst the boss went off on holiday.

After all of this exposure during my school years I was tossing up between engineering and a B Com Ag at Lincoln. Lincoln obviously won the day and I started my first three years of study. Meeting a huge range of people from all parts of the country meant that some strong friendships were also created. One of the perks of these friendships are the all-important farm tours when I go to visit. 

After the BCom I completed a Master of Management in Agribusiness over 18 months. This grew my skills and knowledge particularly around how to understand and interpret scientific papers and studies. Agricultural innovations were a part of the course and this was my first real exposure to Precision Ag. It was from there that my interest in the area grew.

On a day to day basis you will find me enjoying my time the most when I get the opportunity to work with farmers to implement Precision practices. The challenge is in tailoring it to meet the needs and requirements of the farm and the farmer. 

Nick Evans - Agri Optics NZ Ltd

Friday, 9 September 2016

We Have a Winner [COMPETITION]

We are very happy to announce that the winner of the Garmin GPSMAP64s is... 


Congratulations Simon, we're sure you'll be chuffed with this very handy handheld GPS unit. 

From the whole H2Grow Team we'd like to thank everyone that entered this competition, and we hope that you find something of interest in this blog in the future.

We would also like to apologise for the delayed competition winner announcement, this was due to unforeseen circumstances. Apologies for any inconvenience this may have called. 

Thursday, 8 September 2016

Introducing: CHRIS SMITH

I recently read an opinion piece in a farming paper questioning the credibility of some of the "informative" material that fills our letter boxes (and social media feeds) on a daily basis. And I think rightly so, as a reader and purchase decision maker I like to know how the person behind the insightful content became a knowledge source about it. And what is their relationship to the topic - do they have hands-on experience, have they studied in the field or been involved in research trials, is their role purely marketing a product or service or otherwise. Often this relationship is revealed, but not in every case.

This leads me to the motivation behind the series of posts to follow, as it may have been rather impolite of our H2Grow team not to have formally introduced ourselves and our many guest contributors we have tapped the shoulders of to cover topics that our core team are not intimately familiar with.

So without further adieu we would like to introduce Chris Smith...


Chris Smith - Operations Manager (Acting) for Agri Optics NZ Ltd
From 1988 to 1990 I attended Shuttleworth Agricultural College were I attained my Higher National Diploma (HND) in Agriculture. I followed this up with winning a scholarship with the John Edgar Trust for Farming’s Future Leaders in addition to my Fertiliser Advisers Certification (FACTS).

After studying at Shuttleworth Agricultural College I worked my way up the ladder in both the dairy and arable industry in the UK into farm management. When I left the UK in 2007 I was managing a 1800 ha estate in Berkshire which consisted of a large arable area, we also contract farmed the neighbours estates, ran numerous environmental schemes, and many non-farming enterprises!

It was here I attained my BASIS qualified in crop protection, integrated pest management plus bio-diversity and environmental training. Our team were early adopters of Precision Agriculture (PA) in the late 90’s, with grid soil sampling, variable rate inputs, using aerial imagery, information transfer and yield mapping.

The success of our farming team was recognised with many competition wins including Berkshire's Best Farmed Farm, Best Wheat, Barley and OSR Crops for several years. I was also chairman of the Berkshire Agricultural Training Board.

In 2007 I moved to NZ to manage an arable unit in Southbridge, where I learnt the differences between the UK and NZ farming. From there I moved out of farm management to Agri Optics NZ Ltd in 2012, to follow my passion for PA.

On a day to day basis, I study technologies and farming systems, and match our services to help farmers achieve their goals. I analyse data from EM surveys, nutrient maps and many other sources plus moisture probe information to see what its telling us. Using this wealth of information I investigate potential new technologies and solutions, and establish how, or if, they are going to be beneficial to our clients moving forward.

More recently I have added to my qualifications, completing the intermediate sustainable nutrient management course at Massey University.

I have always been really interested in PA. Since joining Agri Optics I have found the greatest satisfaction comes from helping others use PA and when they see how it can benefit their business’s sustainability.  I love working with forward thinking people, looking for new solutions and enjoy the journey it takes us on. On a personal note, my family are a huge inspiration to me!

Chris Smith - Agri Optics NZ Ltd

Tuesday, 6 September 2016


Only three more days to grab the chance to win a Garmin GPSMAP64s!  Simply subscribe to this blog to go in the draw to win.  

To subscribe and enter the draw type your email address in the "Follow by Email" box (top right). Receive bonus entries by clicking "Like" on the Growsmart Precision VRI Facebook page (@growsmartprecisionvri) or commenting on one of the win-win competition posts on the page... Full terms and conditions can be found below... Good luck!

Win-Win H2Grow Competition Terms and Conditions:
1.             By entering this competition each entrant will be deemed to have accepted these terms and conditions and to have agreed to be bound by them.
2.             This competition is open from 1pm (NZ time) on August 12th 2016
3.             This competition closes at 1pm (NZ time) on September 9th 2016
4.             To enter you need to subscribe to the H2Grow blog by either;
a.             Filling out the “Subscribe to H2Grow” competition entry form
b.             Subscribe online by visiting and entering your email address in the “FOLLOW BY EMAIL” box
5.             An additional entry will be granted for each of the following;
a.             Liking the Growsmart Precision VRI (@growsmartprecisionvri) Facebook page
b.             Commenting on one of the “Win-Win” competition posts on the Growsmart Precision VRI (@growsmartprecisionvri) Facebook page
6.             The winner will be announced on and the Growsmart Precision VRI Facebook page by 5pm (NZ time) on September 9th 2016
a.             By entering this competition, the winner agrees to their names being published.
b.             The winner will be contacted via email. A postal address will be requested to send the Garmin handheld unit.
7.             This competition is open to New Zealand residents only.
8.             Failure to supply all requested personal information at the time of submitting an entry might result on the entry being invalid.
9.             The prize is not transferable or exchangeable, and cannot be redeemed for cash.
10.           Lindsay International ANZ PTY Ltd is not liable for damage to prizes sent by post or courier.
11.           The winner will be drawn at the Lindsay NZ Marketing Office, 382 Hurstlea Road, Hakataramea Valley, Kurow
12.           Employees or the immediate families of Lindsay International ANZ PTY Ltd and/or Agri Optics NZ Ltd are not eligible to enter this competition.
13.           The decision of judges in relation to any aspect of the competition is final and no correspondence will be entered into.
14.           Under the Privacy Act 1993, all individuals have the right to access and correct their personal information by contacting Lindsay International ANZ PTY Ltd in writing to Lindsay NZ, 382 Hurstlea Road, Hakataramea Valley, Kurow
15.           By subscribing to the H2Grow blog all entrants are deemed to have given H2Grow (a collaboration of Lindsay International ANZ PTY Ltd and Agri Optics NZ Ltd) and Lindsay NZ consent to contact them using the contact information supplied in their entry in the future.
16.          This promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with, Facebook.