IrrigationNZ says it is pleased that Farm Environment Plans will in future be rolled out across New Zealand following the launch of a Good Farming Practice Action Plan for New Zealand.
“The majority of irrigators already have Farm Environment Plans in place or are preparing these,” says IrrigationNZ Chair Nicky Hyslop.
“Farmers and growers using irrigation are already committed to making improvements to waterways by taking action to reduce their environmental impacts,” says Ms Hyslop.
Farm Environment Plans include a targeted range of actions. Irrigators need to show that they are managing irrigation to minimise leaching and runoff and are operating and maintaining their irrigation systems for maximum water efficiency. The two objectives are complementary as well managed irrigation will use water efficiently and also reduce nutrient runoff.
“To date 3,000 irrigators and service professionals have participated in our training programme which educates people on good irrigation practice – so there is a strong commitment from farmers and growers to upskill themselves and to continue to improve their practices,” says Mrs Hyslop.
As well as developing a training programme for irrigators and the irrigation service industry to help encourage good management practice, IrrigationNZ initiated an innovation award and has carried out irrigation efficiency testing across 350 irrigation systems. This Spring the organisation will launch an online good irrigation management practice training system which will make training opportunities accessible to many more people.
There are now a growing range of technologies available in New Zealand – like precision irrigation techniques and soil moisture monitoring services to support efficient water use and improved environmental outcomes. Irrigation in New Zealand is very efficient by world standards as spray and drip irrigation systems make up over 90% of our irrigation systems. Worldwide, flood irrigation is most common system in use. This is less water efficient, and has greater run-off.
“Careful and precise use of irrigation can result in increased crop yields and pasture production while minimising nutrient-run off,” says Mrs Hyslop.
“Irrigation is very important for our future food production. 20% of the world’s agricultural land is irrigated but this produces 40% of the world’s food supply. Climate change will mean that irrigation will become even more critical to provide a secure food supply in New Zealand,” she adds.