Implementation of irrigation practices for profitable resource efficient sugarcane production in the Ord
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Sugarcane is currently the major crop in the Ord River Irrigation Area (ORIA) in terms of area, occupying approximately 4000 hectares or a third of the irrigable area. It is also possible that further expansion could occur soon within the Ord Stage 2 area. The new industry is continuing to develop guidelines for and to initiate implementation of best management practice, to ensure the development of a profitable and sustainable industry. This project contributed to the provision of an extension service which is critical in assisting the industry in this development. Irrigation water application in excess of 30 ML ha-1 yr-1 was common commercial practice when sugarcane production commenced in 1995. High irrigation application not only impacted on profitability but also contributed to rising water tables and land degradation. Consequently this project aimed to build capacity in the community to save water and labour and to reduce rising water tables. The APSIM-Sugarcane model (Keating et al., 1999) enabled the initial testing of scientific hypotheses of sugarcane production in the Ord. During the previous SRDC project (CSR022) certain adjustments were required for APSIM simulations under Ord conditions but these were not entirely satisfactory. In CSE007 it was necessary to introduce growers to a framework based on the Penman-Monteith (PM) equation. This framework is concerned mainly with daily crop evapotranspiration (ETC) for which it is more suited than APSIM-Sugarcane but does not consider much detail on crop physiology or soil physics. A number of experiments were conducted to improve both the APSIM and PM frameworks for a better working knowledge of the soil-plant-atmosphere continuum in the Ord. From the APSIM based scheduling experiments we concluded that a 50% soil water deficit represented the lower limit of readily available water (RAW). It was then possible to derive RAW values (56 to 68 mm) for the major soil types in the Ord in the interests of balancing requirements for high sugar yields and reduced water use. Lodging rules introduced to APSIM for conditions in the east were able to explain a ‘slow-down’ phenomenon noted repeatedly in earlier experiments after about 30 t ha-1 biomass had been produced. More recently an early ratoon crop accumulated biomass rapidly up to 55 t ha-1 before slowing down. While the slow down was triggered by a combination of crop mass, soil water content and storm rainfall the physiology of the slow growth process remains unresolved. The project made extensive use of a Bowen ratio energy balance (BREB) system which measures energy being used to evaporate water from the crop and soil (ETC). Daily water use in the Ord seldom exceeded 8 mm d-1 compared to original estimates from APSIM of more than 12 mm d-1. Annual net irrigation requirement based on the PM framework was 670 to 1628 mm and these estimates have been used to assess water requirements for sugarcane production in Ord stage 2.
Please use this to cite or link to this itemhttp://hdl.handle.net/11079/13986
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