Modernisation of furrow irrigation in the sugar industry : final report 2014/079
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Automated furrow irrigation systems have been successfully installed and operated on 160 ha of furrow irrigation, on three farms located across the Burdekin sugarcane growing region. The once labour intensive manual irrigation management has been transformed by allowing growers to control, schedule and monitor the behaviour of the pumps, pipeline and valves remotely from a computer, tablet or smartphone. Significant reductions of energy, water, labour and travel associated with irrigation management were seen across all three, large-scale demonstration sites. Reduced labour and travel was seen at each site, with one site registering an annual saving of at least 11,000 km travel. At two of the sites, reduced water usage of around 10% of annual usage was obtained and corresponded to a direct saving in water costs; and for one of these sites, the reduced water usage directly results in a reduced energy cost, while for the other, offers the potential to sell the saved water on the open market. Irrigation events can be scheduled to occur when they are required or to suit off peak electricity tariffs rather than when they suit labour availability. All three farmers recognised the quality of life improvements, and notably their ability to have more time for their family and improved sleeping habits. While assessing improvements to off-site impacts was not part of the project, they are expected as a direct result of the reduction in excess irrigation flowing through to a reduction of irrigation-induced run-off and/or deep drainage and the dissolved agri-chemicals it may contain.