23 February 2012
On the 16th of February Dairy NZ held a Variable Rate Irrigation (VRI) field day at John Wrights farm (Wainono). Approx 100 people spent several hours listening to those involved in the project.
The field day was run by Dairy NZ as an overview of the ongoing work supported by the MAF sustainable farming fund project.(MAF SFF). Variable rate irrigation has been an on going development on this property as a way to better utalise their available ground water and stored water consents through the use of precision irrigation and farming techniques.
The property is a well run dairy block, whose land area exceeds their available instantaneous water rights. To increase yield potential it was decided to expand the existing irrigation system (which includes 2 x Valley Centre pivot irrigators) to utilise stored water and incorporate precision farming techniques. This included the introduction of Variable Rate Irrigation technologies leading to better use of the water rather than applying all of their water under a uniform rate irrigation (URI) methododology (applying a uniform amount i.e. mm/day over an entire area).
The Variable Rate systems were installed on the pivot to allow increased control and better utilization of water. Further alterations were required to the original infrastructure including:
The farm has been under development since 1999 and is now developed to a stage where water utilization is allowing best farming practice to be a reality for the owners with lower pumping costs, less fertiliser leaching and increased yield through the greater spread of water over area. The VRI system is being used as a test system with field trial blocks being monitored by Landcare research as part of the MAF sustainable farming fund project.
Several key items have been employed in the development to allow the maximisation of the Variable rate irrigation hardware:
Areas of benefit on this property for Variable rate irrigation (VRI) technologies and management systems are seen as:
Variable rate irrigation (VRI) through precision irrigation farming techniques has added significant improvement to the centre pivot irrigation systems on this South Island farm. The principles shown on this farm although specific to this block can often be applied to other centre pivot irrigation developments.
Each property should be assessed as to what form of Variable rate irrigation technologies is required - Zone control or Speed control (see VRI News link or Valley VRI Brochure for further information), assessing the cost of a system versus the initial benefits and the future opportunities.
A copy of the Field Day handout is available by clicking here
For further information on Variable rate irrigation and precision farming technologies on Centre Pivot irrigators contact WaterForce.
Article notes: This is an opinion piece by Quinn Elstone of ValleyNZ.