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What is Precision Irrigation?

Precision Irrigation is a technique used to deliver water to crops with pinpoint accuracy based on factors like crop needs and environmental conditions.

Water is a limited and precious resource, but with agriculture reported to use 70 percent of the world’s freshwater, traditional irrigation methods are beginning to fall short. By 2050, an additional two billion mouths will begin to strain our limited resources, highlighting the urgency for innovative solutions. 
 
Precision irrigation, the targeted application of water and nutrients to growing plants, is a viable solution to combating a water scarcity crisis. By precisely timing and targeting water and fertiliser application, farmers can ensure optimal conditions for plant development whilst reducing their environmental impact.  
 
In regions with limited natural precipitation, precision irrigation systems become indispensable for sustaining crop production. It enables farmers to grow healthy crops even in semi-arid environments, mitigating the risk of yield losses due to climate uncertainties like droughts.  

How does precision irrigation work?

Aided by innovations like remote sensing and satellite technology, precision irrigation systems optimise water usage across vast agricultural areas, delivering moisture precisely where and when crops need it most, thereby promoting sustainable farming practices and environmental stewardship. 
 
There are four main precision irrigation methods that can be used to support plant growth by watering the soil. These are most commonly known as surface irrigation, sprinkler irrigation, drip irrigation and underground drip irrigation. Although these methods are each implemented using unique precision irrigation tools, they all serve as cost-effective ways to supply water and nutrients to growing plants.  

The landscape of precision irrigation offers many innovative solutions by Agritech organisations committed to helping farmers implement these methods in the most efficient ways possible. Among these industry leaders are companies like SWAN Systems, NDrip Australia and Nanobubble Agritech, each offering precision irrigation tools tailored to the specific needs of farmers.  
 
SWAN Systems, for instance, is a precision irrigation tool designed for enterprise-scale irrigators. With the ability to schedule irrigation, manage nutrient applications, monitor crop health, and create water and nutrient budgets, it facilitates data-driven decisions to optimise water and nutrient utilisation.  
 
NDrip Australia, on the other hand, offers a sustainable alternative to flood irrigation for broadacre farmers by using a combination of gravity and a novel micro-irrigation technique to increase farm productivity and yields whilst also maintaining soil health. 
 
Nanobubble Agritech offers farmers integrated, retrofittable nanobubble technology solutions, which deliver a significant boost in productivity for irrigated crops while conserving water compared to conventional irrigation methods. 
 
These kinds of precision irrigation tools can be useful for farmers employing a precision irrigation method, as they enable precise control over water and nutrient delivery, leading to optimised crop growth and water allocation. 

FAQ

 1. Can precision irrigation systems be retrofitted to existing farms? 

Yes, precision irrigation systems can often be retrofitted to existing farms. Many precision irrigation technologies are designed to be adaptable and compatible with existing infrastructure, allowing farmers to upgrade their irrigation systems without needing to completely overhaul their current setup. 
 
2. How do precision irrigation systems handle varying soil types and crop needs? 

Precision irrigation systems are designed to handle varying soil types and crop needs through customisable and adaptive features. These systems utilise advanced technologies such as soil moisture sensors, weather data integration, and crop-specific algorithms to tailor water application to specific soil and crop conditions. 
 
3. What kind of training or support is needed to implement precision irrigation? 

Effective precision irrigation implementation relies on tailored training and support, which vary based on system complexity, farm size, and user expertise. There are also many solutions that are simple to use allowing farmers to implement quickly and see results straightaway. For assistance and collaboration opportunities, reaching out to the Irrigation Research and Extension Committee (IREC) can provide valuable resources and expertise for those involved in irrigated agriculture in the Murrumbidgee Valley. 

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