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Development and adoption of a web-based irrigation management tool for improving water use efficiency of Queensland broad-acre and horticultural crops

This project developed two farmer-friendly, web-based tools to assist farmers and crop consultants make irrigation scheduling (timing and amount of irrigation) (WaterSCHED2) and planning decisions (CropWaterUse) based on historical and real-time weather data. These tools included the main broad-acre and several horticultural crops in Queensland, and are adaptable to different irrigation systems (sprinkler, surface and drip) and to production under different water regimes (dryland, deficit-irrigation and full-irrigation). The tools assist in irrigation record-keeping, benchmarking and economic analysis of on-farm water management.

Additionally, the project included strong research and extension components to facilitate its widespread adoption. The research component focused on local validation of the web-based tool by obtaining a better understanding of the water requirements (evapotranspiration or ET) of local crops, which was vital for assuring its accuracy. Direct measurement of ET was undertaken at Gatton Research Station using weighing lysimeters designed and purpose-build for this research and the weighing lysimeter facility established at Kingsthorpe Research Station as part of the “Maximising profitability with limited water in cotton farming systems” projects. Eddy covariance equipment was also purchased and used to directly measure ET and CO2 fluxes in farmer’s fields. The extension component focused on training related to irrigation scheduling and planning, and on promoting the adoption of the new tools.

This project delivered:

  1. Farmer-friendly web-based tools to assist farmers and consultants make strategic (pre-planting) and tactical (in-crop) irrigation decisions.
  2. A better scientific understanding of the water requirements of local horticultural and broad-acre crops, and the development of improved procedures for estimating and extrapolating crop water requirements to other areas. As a by-product of the eddy covariance measurements, an understanding of the CO2 balance of different cropping systems was also obtained.
  3. Farmers and crop consultants in Queensland with new skills, capabilities, and new tools for making irrigation decisions based on scientifically-sound approaches.

This project was funded by the Queensland Government.

Project contact: Graham Harris

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