Getting the right amount of moisture to each paddock on your property to ensure grass grows well and property doesn’t scour or erode from uncontrolled water runoff is the holy grail of New Zealand farmers.
Unfortunately, many assume that their irrigation company will get this sorted for them and expect that when they part out significant investments in large irrigation systems, that at least some training will come with the package.
From what we’ve heard, that isn’t always the case. A consultant or irrigation supplier may help specify what equipment is required, but then assume that the farmer (and their staff) know how to set it up properly and how to run the system throughout the seasons. As a manufacturer, we rely on training as many of our retail distributors as possible, and providing content resources (like this blog for example) and training days to help farm owners get the best results from their RX Plastics irrigation system.
We still see K-Line installations not being used to their best effect and occasionally hear complaints from farmers that K-Line isn’t delivering to their expectations. This blog is designed to highlight some of the best practices we recommend for K-Line and G-Set irrigation systems, while also pointing readers towards some of the other content we think you should find helpful.
1) Choosing the right kind of systems for your property
First and foremost, you need to start by working with an irrigation consultant to determine what kind of system will meet the needs of your property, taking into account your budget, the types of stock, crops or horticulture you are growing, your geographic location, climate and the terrain across your farm. Properties that include both flat land and hillside paddocks may need more than one irrigation solution to get the best results across the board. The greater the slope in a paddock, the greater the risk of surface runoff.
2) Know how dry/wet your soil is
Working out how much you need to water starts with getting a handle on two things – how much moisture the soil currently holds, and what the weather pattern is going to bring in terms of rainfall.
The ideal is to irrigate for a field deficit – which means there is ability for the soil to absorb more moisture if and when it rains. If the soil is already saturated due to over watering, then all rain will simply run off, and in the worst case scenario, take precious top soil with it.
The greater the moisture content of the soil, the greater the risk of compaction and pugging.
3) Stock management
Poorly-drained and/or weakly structured soils are at greater risk of compaction and pugging during grazing in wet conditions.
This treading damage seals the soil surface, resulting in more water moving across the soil (runoff), hence increasing the loss of sediment and nutrients.
The greater the number of animals on wet soils, the higher the risk of soil treading damage leading to compaction and pugging. For more information about managing stock on sloping areas to minimise nutrient loss an soil damage, this fact sheet from DairyNZ is a useful resource.