An Alternative to Border Check Irrigation

RIRDC - James deBarro

Type: Research Paper
Knowledge level: Advanced

Farm Table says:

There is much to consider when selecting an irrigation system - this study gives some useful information when making that decision

The Australian lucerne seed industry is estimated to be valued over A$100 million to the Australian economy with the majority of seed produced under irrigation. Border check is the principal method of irrigation.

What is the problem?

This research aimed to

  • qualify and quantify the drop tube irrigation system as an alternative and significantly more efficient ground water irrigation system for the production of lucerne seed and hay.
  • quantify reductions in the volume of saline water pumped and applied for lucerne seed and hay production whilst maintaining profitable yields in comparison to existing border check irrigation.

What did the research involve?

The research

  • examined the income and expenditure of lucerne seed and hay production from drop tube and a border check irrigation systems over two consecutive seasons. Management of each system was recorded and the net profit/ML pumped was calculated.
  •  evaluated a comparison of border check and drop tube centre pivot irrigation systems for the production of lucerne seed.
  • assessed the cost of production and the net profit for each system and the return per megalitre pumped was calculated.

What were the key findings?

The research

  • shows that the drop tube centre pivot pumped 50-68% less water and provided a 50% increase in return per megalitre pumped.
  • determined that irrigation via the drop tube system on non wetting sandy soil is best applied in large applications (75-125 mm/irrigation event), which reflects the traditional success of the border check system.

The project findings supported anecdotal experience that at the commencement of irrigation using the drop tube system, saline water can be immediately applied successfully to seed crops.

In addition, the drop tube system fits in favourably with proposed water management policy to reduce ground water extractions, and in doing so, does not reduce the opportunity to maintain lucerne seed yields.

Final comment

The key findings of the research were that there was no discernible difference between either irrigation system in the production and net profit.

Most importantly the research determined that drop tube irrigation returned 55% more profit per ML pump

2008 - Australia - RIRDC - James deBarro
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