Identifying new ways to optimise irrigation is key to the ongoing success and sustainability of irrigated farming in Australia.

The rise of agricultural technology is seeing tailored farming solutions that combine microclimate sensors with data intelligence to provide accurate insight into the crop and soil water balance.

By providing real-time information about what is happening in each crop, these emerging technologies can help growers make faster, more accurate irrigation decisions by backing up their ‘gut-feel’ instincts with hard evidence.

Evapotranspiration for irrigation

One of the biggest factors influencing irrigation requirements is evapotranspiration (ETo), a measurement that estimates combined water loss through plants (transpiration) and soil (evaporation).

The rate and level of this ETo depends on the type of crop, its management, growth stage and the weather. New digital technologies make it possible to incorporate dynamic models that automatically adjust for growth stages and biomass production to gain an accurate view of ETo, now and several days in advance, which can help growers plan their irrigation needs.

Recognising this opportunity, Hort Innovation is funding a research project which evaluates different modelling approaches using four key crops: cauliflower, spinach, carrots and lettuce.

It has leveraged the research capabilities of the Queensland University of Technology (QUT) and the commercial expertise of The Yield, an Australian agtech company providing a leading microclimate sensing solution.

The research

For the past two years, Hort Innovation, The Yield and QUT have been developing enhanced models that calculate crop water requirements and dynamically adjust to specific crops, growth stages and locations.

The models are designed to be incorporated into sensor and digital technology to improve accuracy of water deficit predictions and create a scalable way of forecasting irrigation requirements.

The project has now developed models for the four key crops and has conducted field trials throughout the current growing season, and has now reached ground-truth stage, with QUT researchers working to verify the models by applying local field trial data.

Delivering immediate value to growers

As part of the project, The Yield has developed a free growers app designed for irrigated crops, available in the App Store and on Google Play. This app provides seven-day prediction of ETo, together with rainfall, wind and relative humidity.

For more information about this project, which is due to finish in October this year, get in touch with The Yield at

This post appeared in the AUSVEG Weekly Update published 10 July 2018. Subscribe to the Update using our online form to receive the latest industry news in your inbox every week!