Best practice irrigation management to maximise profitability and ensure sustainability in the Ord sugar industry : SRDC final report CSR22
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The Ord Sugar industry was established in 1995 with the commissioning of a sugar mill and the first full season of commercial production was in 1996. It is now a major industry in Stage 1 of the Ord Irrigation Area, currently occupying over 4000 hectares and producing around 60,000 tonnes of raw sugar annually for export. The climatic conditions in the Ord impose a high water requirement for sugarcane crops. Growers face a considerable challenge in meeting that requirement whilst maximising their profitability and minimising drainage losses and potential impacts on the environment. Groundwater levels have risen substantially in the 30 years since the start of irrigation in the Ord. Consequently the development of appropriate irrigation practices for sugarcane is a key requirement in the management of rising water tables and in the sustainability of Ord sugarcane production. The first step in developing best practice irrigation management was to gain a better understanding of the range of irrigation practices being used by the industry at the beginning of the project. A survey conducted to benchmark irrigation practices used on the 1995/96 sugarcane crop indicated very high rates of annual water application, making the development of irrigation practices that maximise profitability and minimise groundwater accessions a key priority for the Ord sugar industry.
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