Farmers must think of future issues
Understanding likely future environmental constraints is a key consideration for farmers installing irrigation, says Irrigation New Zealand chief executive Andrew Curtis.
‘‘That becomes your new bottom line that wasn’t there before.
‘‘One of the future drivers is around some of the nutrient stuff.
‘‘It’s about understanding what are the implications likely to be for you in the future,’’ Mr Curtis said.
‘‘If you’re going to have to work within a nutrient cap, that may actually influence your choice of irrigation.’’
He said with some systems it was much easier to minimise the drainage than with others.
‘‘We’re encouraging irrigators to look ahead from a nutrient and water efficiency point of view. There’s not much point in putting in a half-baked system because it will be impacting on you within a couple of years or so.’’
Mr Curtis said when putting in an irrigation system it was vital to get the design brief right.
‘‘That obviously includes understanding the soil, the climate and the crop. It also includes the management requirements of the system, and how it fits in with your life or the social aspects of what you do.’’
Generally farmers could expect a three to one gain in productivity and profitability on irrigated farms over dry-land farms.
‘‘That obviously increases or decreases, depending on where you are in the country,’’ he said.
‘‘For example, in Central Otago that ratio would be much higher because your ability to do dry-land farming is far less there due to the climate.’’
For some high value products the ratio would be much higher than three to one.
Mr Curtis said some irrigation infrastructure was now appearing on hillcountry farms.
‘‘By irrigating just part of the farm there’s some huge benefits for building resilience into the sheep and beef industry to get it out of its boom-and-bust cycle.
‘‘There aren’t many hillcountry farms that haven’t got five or 10 hectares of flat somewhere.’’
Irrigation New Zealand (INZ) has a guide to developing irrigation and a development check list on irrigationnz.co.nz.
Implications ahead: Irrigation NZ chief executive Andrew Curtis says farmers need to understand environmental ramifications of installing irrigation.