Hunter Local Land Services hold open farm field day for irrigating farmers

Soil moisture monitoring equipment with telemetry has enabled Barrington farmers Tom Middlebrook and Adam Forbes to monitor their soil moisture using their smart phones. Photo: supplied
Soil moisture monitoring equipment with telemetry has enabled Barrington farmers Tom Middlebrook and Adam Forbes to monitor their soil moisture using their smart phones. Photo: supplied

Hunter Local Land Services are hosting a field day for farmers who irrigate at Barrington on November 27.

Irrigation decisions can be tricky and often made by local intensive grazing industries using a ‘best guess approach, that is, when water is available.

Whilst the region has been experiencing incredibly tough conditions, recent rainfall events have raised a quandary for some- how do I manage the irrigation water I have available to me most effectively to make the most of this?

The Hunter Smart Farming: Irrigating for Profit Project, supported by Hunter Local Land Service and funded by the National Landcare Program, has been raising the awareness of the importance of improved irrigation scheduling, using a more informed approach, for the past twelve months.

Delayed water application after rainfall is a common mistake irrigators make.

“Delayed water application after rainfall is a common mistake irrigators make,” project manager Marguerite White said.

“We tend to hold up thinking we’ll make savings on water and power, however the most profitable irrigation may be the never-applied to capitalise on recent rainfall.

“A further one or two irrigations following rain may be just what’s needed to raise soil moisture to levels to those required by plant root systems, or make nitrogen application a possible option, thus driving pasture or fodder crop production.”

The project has been focusing upon starting irrigation at the right time and making sure all equipment is ready for a reliable start-up. It has developed a wealth of quick resources such as check-lists, videos and podcasts.

Two demonstration dairy farms located at Barrington were established earlier this year to trial and demonstrate readily available decision support equipment and resources. 

Dairy farmer Tom Middlebrook and irrigation agronomist Brian Thomson will discuss the opportunities available for making effective irrigation decisions. Photo: supplied

Dairy farmer Tom Middlebrook and irrigation agronomist Brian Thomson will discuss the opportunities available for making effective irrigation decisions. Photo: supplied

The project is following the irrigation management decisions on both farms over the next three years and evaluating the outcome of decisions made on production and profitable use of water and power.

“We have worked with both farmers to install soil moisture monitoring equipment under a number of pivot irrigators, as well as use a weather-based irrigation scheduling app, to help them make more informed irrigation decisions,” Ms White said.

“The way in which they have used this information has been very different. Working with irrigation agronomist, Brian Thomson, the logged data has identified both new and lost opportunities across the farms.”

At the open day Brian Thomson of Porosity Agricultural Services will introduce attendees to the technology used on the farms and the practicalities of analysing real-time data to make effective irrigation decisions at the right time.

The open day starts at 10am at 488 Thunderbolts Way, Barrington. All irrigators are invited to attend. Bookings essential by emailing Marguerite White, mwhite@icdprojectservices.com.au.