Western Australian dairy farmer Michael Twomey is taking part in a new program to better assess his irrigation system performance and optimise pasture and crop yields.
His 220-hectare dairy farm in Dardanup is one of 46 sites on dairy, cotton, sugar, grain and rice farms across Australia participating in the Smarter Irrigation for Profit 2 until 2022.
The project is supported by funding from the Australian Government Department of Agriculture as part of its Rural R&D for Profit program, and Dairy Australia.
Having built his 420-cow dairy and 100ha system from scratch in 2016, Mr Twomey said there is still plenty of scope to tweak and maximise his water productivity and pasture yields over summer.
Mr Twomey said he joined the project because he felt he could irrigate more efficiently to match his sandy loam soil requirements and the optimisation project would help inform his decisions.
"With moisture probes and the app on my phone I can make much better use of my dam water and get better plant growth, and ultimately save money on fodder," he said.
Supporting Mr Twomey, and fellow trial participant Brad Boley, Scott River, for WA, the duration of the trial is Western Dairy consultant project co-ordinator Kirk Reynolds.
I want to know whether I'm using the best plant varieties on my four pivots and be able to grow more water-efficient pastures and improve my yields as well.
Mr Reynolds said the trial would show dairy farmers how to correctly schedule and allocate the appropriate irrigation amount over the summer period using advanced soil moisture technology.
"Water-stressed spring pastures don't recover so knowing when to get water on early should be the first step," Mr Reynolds said.
"What we don't see on many irrigated farms is the astute use of soil moisture probes and a proper analysis of the mechanics of the system.
"Irrigators that use sub-par functioning systems and do not understand how to optimise their water and power use, are potentially turning a profitable fodder source into one that costs them.
"What works for one farm system may not be the same as the one down the road. Do not underestimate the importance of knowing the input costs and opportunities to reduce them when it comes to smart irrigation."
Mr Twomey said he also wanted to see if he could grow more ryegrass and chicory over summer using less water and to potentially test other water-efficient pasture species.
"I want to know whether I'm using the best plant varieties on my four pivots and be able to grow more water-efficient pastures and improve my yields as well," he said.
Western Dairy will use CDAX technology to regularly measure pastures over the growing season and map the correlation between soil moisture, water application and pasture growth.
Dairy Australia soils and irrigation lead Cath Lescun said the project aimed to increase the water productivity of more than 4000 irrigated cropping and pasture agricultural enterprises by 10 to 20 per cent.
"The optimisation site is focused on managing the yield gap via best practice irrigation extension and driving faster adoption of good practice irrigation," Ms Lescun said.
"Remedial actions will be monitored and dairy farmers will be regularly informed of our progress through field days, workshops, case studies and social media updates."
For further information visit dairyingfortomorrow.com.au/tackling-specific-issues/water/smarter-irrigation-for-profit/.
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