Citrus growers look at water-use practices

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Citrus growers and industry representatives from throughout WA gathered recently at Harvey at a sustainability field day.

Department of Agriculture and Food development officer Bronwyn Walsh said the program featured four speakers, and visits to an orchard and packing shed.

"The long-term sustainability of the citrus industry is complex and relies on the environment, production systems, consumers of WA citrus fruits and the financial health of growers," she said.

"These factors are a focus of the local citrus industry as its production continues to increase and shrinking margins and rising input costs challenge profitability."

At the field day, department development officers Tilwin Westrup and James Dee spoke about the state of WA's water and recommended irrigation management practices for improved water-use efficiency. Building on the growers' training in the Waterwise program, Mr Dee suggested growers develop water budgets for average and low rainfall years and use long-term predictive tools to estimate potential water resources.

"Mr Dee said growers could maximise production from each megalitre of water by effectively scheduling irrigation events and adapting their production systems to cope with potential water quality issues," Ms Walsh said.

"Monitoring water resources during rainfall periods for both quantity and quality and making decisions early to avoid rushed decisions or wasted resources on poor-performing blocks were also suggested."

Mr Westrup reminded citrus growers they could take-up the offer of comprehensive on-farm assessments conducted as part of the department's More Dollars Per Drop project which aims to assist growers to achieve more efficient water use.

Mr Westrup said after the on-farm assessment and an interview on water-use practices, reports were prepared for growers, highlighting their current water use and recommendations to improve efficiency.

Living Farm research manager Andrew Wherrett spoke about the nitrogen cycle and its contribution to greenhouse gases and ways to limit the emissions which he said could become a long-term issue or opportunity.

Ms Walsh said the department also reported preliminary results of WA-market fruit quality tests.

"So far, the testing is demonstrating excellent performance of local fruit," she said.

Horticulture Australia, Fruit West and Perth NRM also backed the field day.

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