Two Tasmanian farmers adopting modern technologies and innovative water management practices for a sustainable future are being recognised in an international irrigation competition.
Cressy farmers Rob and Eliza Tole are in the running to win the Zimmatic Trailblazer Sustainable Irrigation Awards, as is Selbourne farmer Stephen Eyles, who sit alongside four others.
The judges were looking for innovation in water management, steps taken to ensure sustainable water use, and a passion for protecting one of farming’s most precious natural resources.
Cressy mixed cropping and livestock farmer Rob Tole said he decided to get smarter about water on-farm and adopted a number of drainage techniques that “in combination” have raised production.
His family runs a 560 hectare property with 350 hectares irrigated to grow peas, seed potatoes, poppies, grass, clover and hemp seed, chicory and pasture.
A big blade…drags over the ground to cut and fill areas in the paddock, to level paddocks off so you don’t have little hollows or high patches and you have a constant grade from one point down to a drain.
Cressy Farmer Rob Tole on surface drainage
Mr Tole said they brought in variegated irrigation, tile drainage and surface drainage for water management.
He said they were one of the first farms to bring surface drainage technology to Tasmania, which helped remove excess water from the paddocks.
“We have invested quite a bit into the equipment to map out the elevation of our paddocks to a very accurate level. We drive the paddock at every seven metres collecting elevation data down to around one centimetre of accuracy, and then we use the T3RRA Cutta program which allows us to design a paddock surface that will get water to flow as quickly as we can to surface drains that will pick the water up,” Mr Tole said.
“That is then loaded into the tractor program which controls the hydraulics of a big blade which drags over the ground to cut and fill areas in the paddock, to level paddocks off so you don’t have little hollows or high patches and you have a constant grade from one point down to a drain.”
Mr Tole said the techniques were adopted for the next generation.
“We can sit here and put a heap of water on the land and live with the consequences of that, or we need to get smarter about what we do,” Mr Tole said.
“Water is a valuable commodity, the margins get tighter, electricity is expensive but the biggest cost that we could see was water logging, which was affecting our crop production. Just as important as getting water on is getting it off, and that is the way we looked at it.”
Zimmatic’s James Craft said the awards reward farmers for the vital role they play in the primary sector.
“The Awards are an opportunity to help showcase the innovative farming operators who will influence future generations and play a role in strengthening Australia’s success story as global leaders in sustainable and profitable farming.”