Plans for new irrigation tool

The TIA is helping irrigators maximise their water use

Water
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At what point do irrigation farmers become water traders?

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WATERCAN PROFIT: The Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture is devleoping a new online irrigation tool.

WATERCAN PROFIT: The Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture is devleoping a new online irrigation tool.

The Grains Research and Development Corporation is backing the development of a new irrigation forecasting tool, it believes will help growers maximise their profits.

GRDC Agronomy and Farming Systems - South manager Allison Pearson said she could see a significant take up of the WaterCan Profit app.

"The added advantage for grain growers is that it determines the optimum allocation of water, by calculating how much area they have, the water price and how much rainfall they have had," Ms Pearson said.

"It should give them a break even price."

The app also included seaonsal weather outlooks. "That's important, if you have lots of rain, you don't need to put as much irrigation on - with the price of water, you need to make sure you are maximising it use."

The Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture is developing the online tool.

TIA research fellow Dr Matthew Harrison is part of a team contributing to the development of a calculator to optimise the use of irrigation water, as well as supporting long-term economic decision making.

The calculator was aimed at all farmers who were using irrigation throughout southern Queensland, Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania.

As the water price fluctuated, the calculator aimed to determine at what point it was too dear to apply to a variety of crops.

"If the price of water goes up, at what point do I become an irrigation trader, rather than an irrigation farmer?" Dr Harrison said.

The calculator also helped farmers with strategic investment decisions as to what type of irrigation system to use. It can be used through both mobile phones and desk-based apps.

The calculator has been tested with eight grower groups spread throughout the Murray-Darling Basin, South Australia, northern Victoria and Tasmania.

"Irrigated grain farmers are faced with a complex set of decisions, not least among these is how to distribute a quota of irrigation water across the farm during growing season, as well as the choice of crop variety given current grain, water and other input prices," Dr Harrison said.

The calculator enabled whole-farm sensitivity analysis that accounted for factors including the price of water, irrigation layout, variable input costs and grain prices.

"It will assist growers in optimising farm scale returns by allocating available irrigation water to alternative crops and/or paddocks," he said.

Dr Harrison said the app was developed with impact and adoption in mind.

"It's a fine balance between being simple enough to use straight away, with minimal instruction, and complicated enough to answer the types of cropping rotation systems, and how much water to apply," he said.

Tasmanian Irrigation has built 15 irrigation projects in the state, delivering more than 150,000ML with 95 per cent reliability.

The project is funded by the GRDC, with support from the Irrigated Cropping Council, Southern Growers and FAR Australia.

A link to WaterCan Profit can be obtained on request from Matthew Harrison at matthew.harrison@utas.edu.au

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