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Spring is here – which means it’s time to start thinking about your irrigation! In mid-September I spent a morning with a client who started out by telling me he would need to start-up his irrigation very soon. He didn’t want to risk getting behind. Given this we had the following conversation.

For the 10 irrigation seasons I’ve been living and working in Canterbury, I’ve observed the need to irrigate in September is extremely questionable, even for a stony Lismore soil type. Plant water use seldom gets above 2 mm a day and typically sits between 1 – 1.5 mm day. On the plain there is almost always over 20 mm of rainfall during September and a lot more than this as you move towards the hills. Even if you were to end up in a slight soil moisture deficit scenario by deciding not to irrigate during September, it would be easy to catch-up when you do start irrigating in October. Most irrigation systems in Canterbury are designed to deliver between 3.5 and 5 mm a day and plant water use in October is typically between 2 – 3 mm day.

Alongside the above, when you consider the production losses from not irrigating during September have been shown to be negligible, and then consider the benefits gained through reducing your nitrogen losses, irrigating during September becomes questionable as good practice. It’s October that’s the start-up month for irrigation in Canterbury. October is the month when you need to start keeping a close eye on your soil moisture sensor or water budget alongside the 3-day weather forecast.

Instead September should be the month to undertake your annual irrigation system checks. These involve a visual inspection of all irrigation equipment, looking for wear and tear, loose bolts and checking sprinklers against the sprinkler chart. At Water Strategies we call this our ‘dry-walk’. This is followed by a ‘wet-walk’ looking for leaks (particularly sprinklers, goose necks, droppers, travelling irrigator hoses and pod laterals) whilst listening for strange noises (pumps and gearboxes). Annual checks are a key component of the Water Strategies Irrigation WOF.

The Water Strategies Irrigation WOF first involves a full evaluation of your irrigation (both the irrigation equipment and scheduling practice). To be clear the Irrigation WOF is not a Bucket Test. The Bucket Test was designed as an indicative look see – you cannot provide detailed recommendations from it, and you should question any provider who is doing this. The Irrigation WOF full evaluation is performed by a technical specialist who provides a report of irrigation performance and highlights actions to rectify any issues found. The irrigation WOF also provide you with an annual monitoring programme (your annual checks), and for those clients that want to take monitoring to the next level, one of our points of difference is we also work with them to help them understand where the greatest value can be achieved from automation. The move to automation must be carefully considered if the information gained is to be useful and cost-effective.

The irrigation WOF approach focuses upon informing farm management and associated decision-making in a way that is beneficial to a farm’s bottom-line. The by-product of this is robust evidence to ensure the irrigation component of your Farm Plan audit is all up to date and ready for inspection.

Call us today to book in your Water Strategies Irrigation WOF.

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