Rob O'Connor, an experienced Irrigation Officer with DEDJTR works with Accelerating Change on all things irrigation, including scheduling. Rob shares with us, below, lessons learnt from the project about soil moisture monitoring and the use of moisture probes, and the value of using ET data to schedule irrigations.
Lessons learnt about soil moisture monitoring
Soil moisture probes have been used on the partner farms under different forages in 2015-16 and through the recent winter-spring period. The probes have provided useful information largely for irrigation scheduling, particularly when the moisture probe information was regularly revised and used in conjunction with other scheduling methods already used on farm.
Getting the most out of probes
It was evident from probe data that a shallower depth of moisture extraction was occurring under pasture compared to lucerne. Moisture uptake was typically occurring to a depth of 50-70cm under pasture and 100-120cm for lucerne. (Refer to figures...
Working with our farmers, we delivered a Soils Constraints Road Trip in July, taking participants to three different sites in the Tatura-Stanhope region to look at different structural soil issues and ways to address them on farm for improved productivity. The Road Trip was delivered by soil scientist, Christian Bannan, who took farmers through issue identification and possible practical remediation actions in an interactive format.
The feedback from the day indicated that the event was particularly relevant for farmers in our region, given the wet conditions of each site. We are developing up a full report and video of the day so watch this space for more information. Accelerating Change is making this workshop available for delivery upon request. If you and your neighbours, or Discussion Group is interested at having a closer look at your soils, please get in touch.
"Your top soil is your horse power and your sub soil is your water tank"- Soil Scientist, Christian Bannan
Accelerating Change has been busy over the winter months setting up technical extension activities and continuing measurement and monitoring activities on our Partner Farms where possible, incorporating winter feeds into the mix. Difficult wet conditions for our farmers have also limited how much pasture accumulation and nutritive data we could collect so, like everyone, we are looking forward to seeing some drier paddocks in spring.
Our monitoring and measurement strategy will soon kick off again as the irrigation season starts up. We will be continuing our look at the performance of perennial pasture and lucerne on farm, as well as alternative summer forage types such as sorghum, their contribution to the feed budget, and their respective costs and benefits. We will also look at the performance of different aged lucerne to assess its value over the long term and continue with our trial of different irrigation strategies.
Accelerating Change, in partnership with Tactics for Tight Times and the Gardiner Foundation, ran two Summer Cropping Workshops this month to get farmers thinking about how they could get the most value from maize or sorghum crops in their respective dairy farming operations.
Together, Matt Nihill, Cropping Agronomist from Landmark, and Lisa Birrell, Murray Dairy Extension Officer, discussed the agronomic, financial and nutritional considerations of growing a good crop and effectively utilising the feed. Service Providers and dairy farmers in the room also shared their experiences of summer cropping.
Matt and Lisa spoke about the differences between maize and sorghum, their availability at different times and offering different nutrition characteristics they offer your cows. Whilst sorghum can be directly grazed in the summer time, maize must be harvested and stored, and won't be fed out until autumn.