Stuart Bray: Sub surface drip irrigation is used widely throughout Australia, but as yet
has not made a huge impact in the cotton industry. However, water savings and increased yields
on some soil types means that some cotton growers are keen to use the system. Here at
Narromine, the Sustaining the Basin Farm Modernisation Project is funding sub surface drip on ‘Bungarley’.
One of the advisors to the project is the manager of Darling Irrigation, Ivan Truscott.
Ivan Truscott: It’s allowed our clients to put drip and other systems in place on
some of their better ground. Traditionally, farmers have put this sort of technology down
the back paddocks where they can’t flood irrigate. And due to this, yields haven’t
been that great. So it’s allowed farmers, because it’s expensive, not a cheap alternative
but an expensive alternative. It’s allowed them to put better production on their better
paddocks, and they can see the yields – yeah they can see the benefits. It’s also all
about energy saving, water is getting more expensive, fuel is getting more expensive.
It’s allowing farmers to put water where they need it, when they need it, rather than
a blanket approach. Gives them savings and it’s all about costs savings and yields.
We’re not going to get paid more for the products, so we have to look at the alternatives,
and if you’re not going to earn more you have got to look at growing the crop cheaper
and better, and using the efficiencies and technologies out there to allow you to do
that. Robert Hoogers: So from your experience, what
will be the regional benefits with the sacrifice of water with a more efficient system?
Ivan Truscott: Regional benefits are your biggest problem with buying water. You’re
taking water out of production which loses jobs. And that’s not just the farmers’
jobs, that’s not just the blokes working on the farm – that’s my job, that’s
DPI’s. There are people in every industry that are going to lose jobs because you’re
taking water out of the system. By paying over the odds for water, and encouraging farmers
to put water saving devices in, your production is staying the same if not improving. So although
you’re losing water out of the community, your infrastructure is improving so it’s
allowing you to keep the same amount of production on each place, and if not improve production,
because the key with drip is it gives you a whole lot of alternatives to what you grow
and when you grow. So you could maybe become more labour intensive which would increase
jobs. So I think in terms of buying water back, if you’re going to do it, this is
certainly the best way to do it.