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Published: 20 Feb 2020

James Hills and farmer with irrigation

The Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture is proud to be part of the next phase of Smarter Irrigation for Profit – bringing together industry, researchers and farmers to find practical ways to boost productivity for Aussie farmers.

Smarter Irrigation for Profit Phase 2 is tackling the challenge of reduced water availability by focusing on practical, cost effective strategies to improve the water productivity of Australian cropping and pasture irrigators.

TIA Dairy Centre Leader Dr James Hills is leading the project in Tasmania and building on the work done in phase 1.

“Smarter Irrigation for Profit 1 was a project in which we went out and measured what farmers were doing and through that process we recognised that farmers were only growing at about half their productivity of what they could potentially be achieving," Dr Hills said.

“Having identified that we asked why is that the case? And very clearly what we were able to identify was that one of the biggest issues was the simple scheduling of their irrigation.”

“They weren’t lining up the amount of water that was going out, being used by the plants, with the amount of water that they needed to put back into the system.

“What we were able to show them is that by just adjusting their scheduling, not necessarily using more irrigation, but just adjusting their scheduling they were able to double their productivity. 

Dr Hills’ work in the next phase will focus on a series of optimised irrigation farms linked to local groups of farmers and service providers.

Project Manager Cathy Phelps said Smarter Irrigation for Profit phase II had brought together some of the best irrigation researchers in the country.

"These researchers are actively working across Australia’s irrigation industries to develop new irrigation technologies, to improve irrigation scheduling techniques and to investigate strategies to reduce water storage evaporation," she said.

“There is a strong focus on offering practical, cost effective strategies to improve efficiencies at a farm level, a critical requirement to enhance broad adoption of new tools and technologies throughout the irrigation industry.”

The project is supporting a network of 36 farmer led optimised irrigation sites located on commercial farms across Australia.

"Farmers and advisors are working with researchers to optimise irrigation through the utilisation of existing and emerging decision support tools and technologies,"  Integration coordinator Ms Lou Gall said.

“These sites are critical to boosting on farm adoption and will ensure that the information developed through the project is readily available to irrigators and their advisors. Farmers can visit these optimised irrigation sites to learn how technology can be utilised to enhance their own farms sustainability into the future.” 

The Smarter Irrigation for Profit phase II is supported by funding from the Australian Government Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment as part of its Rural R&D for Profit program, round four. The project is led by Cotton Research and Development Corporation in partnership with four other RDCs and nine research organisations. The project is building on the success of Smarter Irrigation for Profit phase I.