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Ensuring long-term industry survival despite water reduction

The crisis facing irrigated horticulture in the Murray Valley has prompted an urgent re-think of research priorities for viticulture and horticulture in the region.

At the time of writing, allocations for Victorian Murray Valley irrigators were at 16% and New South Wales’ irrigators were grappling with zero allocation, with access to 25% of the water taken from their accounts from last season, and a portion of their carryover water.

The regional scientific research agency Riverlink said researchers were responding to the changed parameters for irrigated horticultural production.

“Growers are in need of answers and direction to enable their crops to produce and survive the coming season. There is also a real need for recovery advice,” Riverlink chairman Max Tolson said. “However, each grower’s immediate and critical needs must be balanced with the longer-term survival of whole industry sectors,” he said.

“The long-term future requires scientists to help develop techniques in dealing with fluctuations in water quantity and quality, along with a better understanding of yield and wateruse models that assist in building plant resilience.”

Tolson said scientists had recently been brought together by Riverlink to streamline their planning for a future with less water.

Scientists and senior representatives from New South Wales Department of Primary Industries, Victorian Department of Primary Industries, CSIRO Plant Industry, South Australian Research and Development Institute and Primary Industries and Resources South Australia attended the water crisis planning forum. Representatives of the grape, citrus, nuts and vegetable industries also attended.

“Riverlink recognises that there is a vast amount of research information available to horticulture producers,” Tolson said.

“However, there are knowledge gaps that need to be filled. The essential issue is survival and recovery of the irrigated horticulture crops affected by low water allocation.”

CSIRO modelling suggests average rainfall in the Murray Darling region could fall by 15% by 2070.

The full article can be found in the November/December issue of Australian Viticulture.

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