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Time to deliver on National Water Initiative outcomes

The National Water Initiative promises some pain and some gain for grapegrowers.

Clearer definition of water rights will give growers more security when investing in on-farm improvements. A range of regulatory measures aimed at moving water from less efficient uses and commodities to more efficient growers and higher value crops should see water allocations move to grapegrowing and other high value horticulture.

However, with these reforms will undoubtedly come high prices for water and its delivery. Full cost recovery is the target and NSW State Water has already put an application to that State’s independent pricing tribunal for increases of up to 3000%.

Actual increases of this magnitude are unlikely, but with over supply likely to continue for three to four years it is important that growers look for ways to cut costs and improve their ability to dial in a target quality/yield.

Precision viticulture will become increasingly important and irrigation management is a key part. Growers will need to assess quality and likely yield early in the season with bunch counts and later with berry weights. An improved irrigation system can deliver water more uniformly, reducing the variability in crop over a ‘patch’. The less the variability the easier it is to hold the fruit in the quality/yield bracket.

Time to deliver, Irrigation Australia 2006 the national conference and exhibition of the Irrigation Association of Australia has a range of conference sessions, exhibitors and workshop covering improved irrigation. The conference program includes:

sessions on sustainability : the sustainable (rather than organic) movement is growing strongly in viticulture

Jenny Treeby and Karl Sommer discussing future farms for the Mallee: of interest to Sunraysia and Goulbourn Valley growers

Simon Knowles presenting an irrigation code of practice for the Riverland, and a number of speakers on best management practice

sessions on irrigation monitoring, recording and root zone management and irrigation and fertigation

For the more practically minded, there are half-day workshops on pumps, drip irrigation and water recycling and reuse.

With over 700 brands on display from over 100 exhibitors it is the largest irrigation show in the southern hemisphere. For more information, or to register on-line, go to www.irrigation.org.au .



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