A project designed to improve drought resilience in irrigated horticulture by focusing on soil moisture monitoring kicked off across the NT and WA last week.
Facing a drying and more variable climate, the horticulture sector is looking at how it can adapt how it uses existing water allocations measures to become more water efficient, resilient to drought, and to maintain crop production.
Di Renfree, Steph Coombes (both NT Farmers) and James de Barro (Alpha Group) hit the road on to install soil moisture monitoring probes and weather stations at 6 sites across the greater Darwin, Katherine, and Kununurra regions.
“It was great to see so many farms interested in soil moisture technology. The data collected from the probes we installed on their property will help take the guess work out of irrigation scheduling”, said Di Renfree, Water Irrigation Development Officer for NT Farmers.
The project will provide growers with the training and confidence to utilise the remote monitoring capability of soil moisture probes and the associated software to allow for rapid decision making and risk management. Most importantly, the growers will be supported and coached by the project team through regular meetings to interpret the data and decide how to use it.
“The number one barrier to best-practice adoption that we keep coming across is a lack of confidence and/or ability among growers to interpret data effectively and then apply these insights to their irrigation management practices”, said Steph Coombes, Extension Officer for NT Farmers. “Growers hold an enormous skill set across a wide range of areas from plant production, marketing, HR etc, so sometimes it can be difficult to keep up to date with the latest tech advances”.
A number of field days and workshops are scheduled for 2023, to share grower experiences and learnings from the project with other growers who may be interested in adopting the technology.
Additional properties in southern WA and Victoria are also involved in the project, which is a cross-sector collaborative approach involving farmers, researchers, service providers from the Northern, Southwest WA and Victorian Hubs, supported by the Future Drought Fund.