Irrigation management

Irrigation management

Irrigation is vital for crop production in many cane farming districts. Best practice irrigation management aims to supply sufficient water for crop growth while minimising the amount of excess water that is lost as either run-off or deep drainage. Irrigation water can be a conduit for the movement of pesticides, nutrients and sediments off farm. A well designed and managed system that minimises deep drainage and run-off, while capturing and reusing unavoidable run-off, will substantially reduce potential losses.

The Queensland Government’s election commitments to reduce nitrogen run-off in key catchments such as the Wet Tropics and the Burdekin pose a significant challenge to farmers. However, many farmers have taken on the challenge as they find new and innovative ways to deal with the incredible variation in water supply and delivery along the length of the Queensland coast.

CANEGROWERS CEO Dan Galligan said proactive partnerships such as the Reef Alliance were helping to achieve real outcomes on the ground and assisting growers to implement often expensive changes to farming practices faster than they otherwise would have been able.

As communications technology improves and becomes more affordable, members put it to work on cane farms. Drewe Burgess from CANEGROWER Tablelands uses Bluetooth dataloggers, with the Atherton Tableland cane growers, to record and access irrigation information, saving time and boosting productivity through precision irrigation management. Read more.  


Burdekin cane grower Eric Barbagallo has combined the cost-saving power of high efficiency pumps with the generation power of solar, to slash thousands off his quarterly bills and embark on a long-term upgrade of his farm's irrigation network. Through the installation of more efficient pumps and variable rate drives the flow rate can be increased at a significantly reduced cost. The new solar panels power the pumps for about six hours per day. Read more.


Soil probes and weather stations are helping grower Gary Raiteri to irrigate his Proserpine crop only when it’s needed for maximum growth. Gary has now modified his irrigation machinery, practices and technology used on the farm resulting in less water and electricity costs, reduced run off and increased productivity. Watch more.


Isis district farmer Graham Zunker and son Greig are reconfiguring their farm to suit a new low pressure lateral overhead irrigation system, in one of the final stages of a five-year all-of-farm project to reduce energy consumption and increase crop irrigation efficiencies. The capacity of the lateral system to get around the farm faster, and water more gently and evenly is helping maintain readily available moisture in the soil, reducing crop stress and boosting tonnage. Watch more.


MSF Sugar’s Tableland farms are happy to share the results and benefits of switching to a sub-surface drip irrigation system. MSF’s Irrigation Supervisor Aaron Moore said on-farm water efficiency was critical in an area that had traditionally been grown using overhead or flood irrigation methods and was facing water supply shortages. Promising results have been seen from harvesting the first blocks where plant cane and ratoon cane had been grown under sub-surface drip irrigation. Read more.

“We are growing bigger cane for the total volume of water applied. Fertigation is a big asset in drip irrigation. Drip irrigation enables nutrients, fertiliser and chemicals to be injected directly into the root zone of the crop at any time during the year,” Mr Moore said.