Farm­ers must think of fu­ture is­sues

Matamata Chronicle - - Rural Delivery -

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.

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