Final report SRDC project BSS206 : A participatory approach to improving furrow irrigation efficiency
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A combination of low water use efficiencies on a significant proportion of furrow-irrigated farms, and a serious decline in water availability for a majority of farms, gave strong impetus to improving application efficiencies of furrow irrigation, which is practiced over 35% of total cane production area in the Bundaberg district. This project, which was based in the Millaquin/Qunaba area, has identified the main operation of contributors to low application efficiencies and methods to alleviate them.Evaluation of data from three irrigation seasons using the irrigation simulation model SIRMOD provided practical, low-cost solutions to a range of problems encountered. In most cases, ensuring suitable and stable inputs, and refinement of inflow rates and cut-off times raised application efficiencies substantially. Deep infiltration, outflow, and losses associated with end-fill were strongly reduced.The project demonstrated that monitoring of common operational factors such as inflow, advance rate and cut-off time, provides excellent information for evaluation of irrigation efficiencies. The simulation model SIRMOD proved particularly useful in evaluation of irrigation practices and provided direction for improvement of application efficiencies. Participating growers involved in the monitoring programs were able to form action plans quickly which modified inefficient practices. In many cases, this led to highly significant improvements to application efficiencies and resulted in better use of available water. A survey conducted at the close of the project indicated that improvements to a number of practices associated with application efficiency are underway.Monitoring and evaluation outcomes were relayed to participating growers through shed meetings, demonstrations and personal contact. Technology transfer to district growers involved similar events and included also field days, workshops, bus tours, displays and presentations. A practical furrow irrigators? handbook was produced for ongoing extension.