The Weekly Advertiser Horsham
Agriculture research bonus
Horsham and the broader Wimmera’s reputation for providing a national heartbeat for grains research is set to gain momentum after a guarantee of more high-quality water for development.
Agricultural research based at Horsham’s Grains Innovation Park is anchoring a $10-million water-recycling project that will allow for an expansion of an ongoing probe into grain-production science.
The ultimate benefit from the research is stronger, more reliable, more nutritious and higher-yielding crops that provide building blocks for farmer success, generate billions of dollars in trade and help feed a hungry world.
Grains Innovation Park, providing a Wimmera base for various government agencies, has one of the largest workforces in Horsham and its Agriculture Victoria team brings together a broad network in cultural diversity as well as scientific knowledge from around the world.
Shoring up its longevity as a nationally significant research institution has widespread implications, not only for the grains industry, but also the socio-economic health of the Wimmera.
The Horsham Agriculture Smartwater and Integrated Water Management Project, the result of joint federal and state government funding, will tap into Horsham wastewater previously inappropriate for grain research plots because of salt and sediment contamination.
With accompanying infrastructure and evolving technology, it opens the door for an expansion of irrigation opportunities and the types of grain and growing circumstances researchers can study and develop.
Agriculture Victoria research director Traci Griffin said the project would provide long-term security and reduce risks to valuable research and innovation at Horsham Smartfarm and provide ‘benefits to the Australian grains industry more broadly’.
“Agriculture Victoria currently uses the wastewater from Horsham treatment plant to irrigate 190 hectares of land used for trials on the Horsham
Smartfarm,” she said. “Wastewater from the Horsham plant currently contains an elevated salt load that can be detrimental to plant growth of some crop types if levels accumulate in the soil.
“Infrastructure and technology that will be installed as part of the project will reduce salinity and turbidity in recycled water for farm use irrigation.”
Under the scheme, updated and expanded irrigation infrastructure will convert 70 hectares of dryland trial area to have support from spray irrigation.
This will help to de-risk these trial areas when seasonal rain is inadequate, while also creating opportunities to simulate rain to help with pest and disease crop-protection research.
New infrastructure investment will increase an irrigated area at Horsham Smartfarm west of Horsham from 19 to 260 hectares for Agriculture
Victoria and other Smartfarm users. A proportion of the wastewater will undergo treatment through a reverse-osmosis or desalination facility, which will provide a higher quality of water for use in irrigating crops such as high-value pulses, which are sensitive to elevated salt levels.
The expanded irrigation area, combined with higher quality water will also create opportunities for yearround field-trial activities.
This includes summer nurseries for national lentil and field-pea breeding programs, where support has previously be unsupported.
It might also open the door for research into a more diverse range of crops under the microscope at Horsham Smartfarm.
While shoring up agricultural research opportunities, the scheme will also provide a sustainable and longterm solution to Gwmwater wastewater management in Horsham.
It will also open new opportunities for the use of high-quality recycled water in Horsham urban public parks and gardens reliant on higher-value drinkable water and, through pipeline infrastructure, expanded viticulture at Lower Norton to Horsham’s west.
Gwmwater, Agriculture Victoria and the Department of Environment Land, Water and Planning have worked on developing the project with support from Grains Research and Development Corporation, Wimmera Southern Mallee Regional Partnership and Wimmera Integrated Water Management Forum.
The project includes construction of a dissolved air floatation plant; a reverse-osmosis plant and a power substation to support its 24-hour electricity needs; two storage dams; an automated precision flood-irrigation system and highly controllable spray irrigators for leaf-soil wetting; and new connecting pipelines, pump stations and other associated infrastructure.