Funding a ‘smart choice’ for future land management
Federated Farmers says investment in smart irrigation projects announced by the Government is an important step towards
optimising future land management practices.
Two projects will benefit from a Sustainable Farming Fund (SFF) grant of $590,000.
Federated Farmers leads one of the projects, to study the effect of irrigation on soil water-holding properties,
involving a number of key primary sector stakeholders and Environment Canterbury.
It was anticipated that the initiative would up-skill farmers and regulators by increasing their understanding of how
soils respond to irrigation, and enhancing their ability to effectively manage water and nutrients.
Project Chair Ivon Hurst said, "Much of the previous research on the effects of irrigation on soil physical properties
is buried in old journal articles and refers to irrigation practices that have been superseded. Our project will fill an
important knowledge gap by conducting field measurements to quantify whether, under medium to long-term irrigation, soil
water holding capacity increases, compared with the same soil, in the same farm system, but under dryland conditions.
"We also intend to investigate the effects of soil type, climate and the number of years the soil has been irrigated."
The project will quantify the relationships between length of time under irrigation, changes in soil carbon and soil
water holding capacity.
It will also feed into the current range of tools and models for irrigation scheduling, estimation of groundwater
recharge and nutrient leaching.
"The project will help build the knowledge of present and future generations. A number of farmers already have the
belief, based on their on-farm experience and observations, that irrigation improves the soil.
"But we need scientific, peer reviewed data to substantiate this belief. Anecdotal evidence is not enough. It has to be
scientifically validated and that’s the way forward for all future land management practices," Mr Hurst said.
The project which is to run for three years, would support improvements in the management of soils to reduce
environmental impacts and would enable more accurate estimation of nutrient loss.
"This is crucial in a planning context, where land and water plans throughout Canterbury and other regions are imposing
regulatory limits on nitrogen loss rates," Mr Hurst said.