Spray irrigation on dairy pastures - efficient or not?
AbstractApplying water efficiently is increasingly important for dairy farmers and other users of surface and groundwater resources to maintain sustainable production. However, irrigation is rarely monitored. We used a questionnaire survey and measurements of five spray irrigation systems working in normal farm conditions to make observations on how efficiently irrigation is being managed. Survey results from 93 dairy farmers showed that, although the farmers believe they know how much water is being applied during irrigation, only 60% make measurements, and about 18% measure irrigation uniformity. Catch-can measurement of irrigation application depth for the different spray systems indicated large variability in application depths during irrigation, and field distribution uniformity ranged greatly between the different systems, decreasing in the order of centre pivots >travelling irrigators> K-line. Changes in irrigation system settings were sometimes made without considering application depths or uniformity. If our five case studies are typical, they may explain the large range of seasonal irrigation amounts recorded in the survey. We recommend that farmers monitor irrigation application depths and uniformity to help manage irrigation water efficiently and to help them estimate the value of irrigation to their enterprise. Keywords: distribution uniformity, water use efficiency, catch cans