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Fine tuning irrigation

Lauren CelenzaCountryman

In a bid to beat the dry, WA orchardists and vignerons came together last week to fine-tune their irrigation skills.

The workshops, held in Karragullen and the Swan Valley, aimed to assist growers with irrigation scheduling for different soil types, water and fertiliser efficiency and soil moisture analysis.

Pickering Brook orchardist Ron Fry said using a soil, water and nutrient monitoring system helped to regulate water and fertiliser use.

“It’s essential you don’t waste water, and using these systems, you use the appropriate amount of water and fertilisers the trees need,” he said.

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Department of Agriculture and Food (DAFWA) wine industry development manager Glynn Ward ran the irrigation workshop in the Swan Valley.

“All producers, regardless of their water situation, are interested in conserving water while irrigating and managing their crops to optimise productivity,” he said.

DAFWA horticulture project manager Alec McCarthy, who headed the Karragullen workshop, said it was important for growers to know their soil type.

“Soils have different water holding capacities and some crops, like grapes, have a very strong capacity to suck out water, while others, like avocados, have a lower capacity,” he said.

DAFWA co-ordinator James Dee said the framework of water management started with the relationship between soil texture and available water.

“Irrigation management is critical; if you overwater, it pushes the water below the root system and it is wasted,” he said.

Perth Region NRM’s David Gibb demonstrated how to dig up soil in an orchard to test the various layers.

“Growers should do at least two tests on their orchards to get accurate results,” he said.

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