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.

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