Farmers groundtruth the science of precision irrigation
Researchers in a six-year MBIE-funded Maximising the Value of Irrigation (MVI) research programme are working closely with industry to help test the next generation of irrigation management tools for cropping, horticultural, and pastoral farms.
The research programme links new knowledge of what is happening above ground – in the crop, with what is happening in the soil and understanding belowground mechanisms. Through the programme, irrigation control systems are being developed and tested. The aim to provide tools for growers to manage their irrigation systems, crops and soils, to increase the efficiency of water use and reduce the negative environmental impacts such as ponding and nutrient leaching from irrigated land.
A key component of the MVI research programme is the involvement and contributions of the growers into the programme. There are six vegetable growers contributing to the programme. These growers and their farms are providing the research team the opportunity to groundtruth the science and the tools being developed.
One of these growers is Hugh Ritchie. Hugh farms Drumpeel Station, which is part of a large mixed-cropping operation, just out of Otane in the Hawke’s Bay. The main crops include wheat, barley, herbage seed, sweetcorn, maize, peas and squash, and some vegetable seed and process carrots are also grown. Hugh is also a Director of Horticulture NZ and sits on a number of other Boards including FAR, Landwise, Irrigation NZ and Process Vegetables NZ.
Hugh has been an early adopter of variable rate irrigation technology and is a keen participant in the MVI programme. Even before the MVI programme began 5 years ago Hugh had been carrying out trials with Plant & Food Research creating soil maps to look for differences in the paddock, and looking at the effects of variable fertiliser applications on soil pH.
It was not a difficult decision for Hugh to offer to become involved in the MVI