Regional growers in Darwin and Katherine gathered in March to attend an Irrigation Efficiency Masterclass, which was conducted by Irrigation Australia and jointly hosted by the Australian Mangoes Industry Association, Northern Territory Farmers Association and the Northern Territory Department of Industry, Tourism and Trade (DITT). VegNET – Northern Territory Regional Development Officer Simone Cameron provides an overview of the event.

Held over two separate days, the Irrigation Efficiency Masterclass and Field Days attracted over 87 attendees and showcased over 20 industry trade exhibitors. The field days were an opportunity for Northern Territory producers and industry to be brought up to speed on the latest in irrigation technologies and how growers can improve on water efficiency practices, maximise crop yields and productivity, resulting in saving money and seasonal water consumption.

The Darwin Field Day was held at Arnhem Mangoes in Lambells Lagoon. The second was in Katherine and took place at the Godinymayin Yijard Rivers Arts and Culture Centre. This day included a field visit to the Katherine Research Station (KRS).

Paul Willmott from Irrigation Australia conducted the training for the field day events. He covered a jampacked agenda including:

  • Basic irrigation scheduling.
  • Determining irrigation water requirements.
  • Basic troubleshooting.
  • System maintenance strategies.

In-field monitoring techniques were conducted in orchards at both Arnhem Mangoes and at KRS. These measured water distribution uniformity, line pressure, flow rates and assessments on soil texture were demonstrated.

Australian Mango Industry Association NT/ Western Australia Industry Development Officer Sarah Hain, NT Farmers Association Water Industry Development Officer Di Renfree and Rowena Eastick from the Territory Natural Resources Management, provided a snapshot of the various water use efficiency projects currently underway to engage growers in understanding how to be more efficient with their water.

The organisers received positive feedback from attendees and exhibitors alike. The exhibitor attendees were impressed with a huge amount of information given to the growers who attended the two days.

“Paul Wilmott was very knowledgeable and tailored the delivery of the masterclass presentation and in field demonstration in a manner that was insightful, valuable and relevant to NT production systems,” one attendee commented.

Attendees and organisers were grateful for the efforts of the exhibitors to travel to the Northern Territory. They provided valuable product displays and expertise for the latest equipment and technological systems, while conducting farm visits in between field days.

The Irrigation Field Days Trade Show, which was hosted at Arnhem Mangoes in March.

Alignment with ‘Modern Water Efficiencies’

Over 80 per cent of NT vegetable growers surveyed recently do not have established sets of water efficiency measures and are unaware of total seasonal volumes of water used on crops grown. Businesses – both corporate and small family-operated – are the main drivers behind negating the understanding and implementing water efficiency practices to enable long term sustainability of this environmental resource. They played a large role in the aforementioned field days.

While the corporate entities generally prioritise water as part of their production system and can monitor and afford to upgrade systems as required, many of our smaller land holders and producers do not necessarily have the financial capacity to do this. They can then find themselves in the situation of using old systems that are inefficient and limit productivity.

A five-year project is being undertaken to improve grower uptake of water efficiency practices and adoption on new technologies. The target is 50 per cent, which will be measured through the replacement of old technologies, engagement in workshopping to improve current methodologies used and educating growers on the values and importance of correct and adequate water usage. Events such as the Irrigation Efficiency Masterclass are a key pathway to seeing this cultural practice change and are the first steps to implementing the project.

Irrigation Australia is offering further extension opportunities for growers and affiliated industries through online virtual pathways focusing on water efficiencies and irrigation pumps and systems. This short course is designed for those who are looking to install and upgrade existing on-farm irrigation systems. It is a great initiative for our northern growers and provides further momentum for the implementation of the 2020-2025 VegNET Regional Extension Plan.

Find out more

Please contact Simone Cameron at bio@ntfarmers.org.au.

For more details about Irrigation Australia’s activities in the Northern Territory, please contact Irrigation Australia National Membership & Regions Manager Tracy Martin on (08) 6263 7774 or at tracy.martin@irrigation.org.au.

VegNET – Northern Territory is a strategic levy investment under the Hort Innovation Vegetable Fund.

This project has been funded by Hort Innovation using the vegetable research and development levy and contributions from the Australian Government.

Project Number: VG19017

Cover image: In February, VegNET RDO Simone Cameron and her Western Australian counterpart, Truyen Vo, visited Vu Farm Produce in the Carabooda area north of Perth. The theme of Simone’s visit was understanding water efficiencies and capacities across industry and jurisdictions, as well as developing networking opportunities.