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.

NZ Grower - - News -

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

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