Smarter Irrigation for Profit

Smarter Irrigation for Profit - Phase 2 will address the challenge of reduced water availability by improving the water productivity of Australian cropping and pasture irrigators. It will do this by developing new precision irrigation technologies, improving existing technologies and facilitating faster uptake through producer led demonstration sites.

Smarter Irrigation for Profit – Phase 2 incorporates three key areas of work.
1. Developing new and innovative irrigation technologies. Technologies include the application of new sensors, advanced analytics to improve irrigation scheduling and strategies to reduce water storage evaporation.
2. Optimising the benefits of autonomous irrigation. Research activities include improving automation components and developing more robust networks for sensing, control and precision application to facilitate faster adoption. Research will be conducted on commercial farms to enable producer input and to make sure outputs are cost effective and practical.
3.Closing the productivity yield gap via best practice irrigation extension.  Thirty five producer and private sector led irrigation optimisation sites will be established across the cotton, dairy and sugar, rice and grains industries. These sites will support extension of the “basics” as well as building knowledge and skills in managing current and new precision irrigation technologies. Cross sector learning will be supported through integrated extension activities and tours. 
The expected outcome is a 10-20% increase in the water productivity of over 4000 irrigated cropping and pasture agricultural enterprises.
This program is supported by five Rural Development Corporations (grains, rice, cotton, dairy and sugar), through funding from the Australian Government Department of Agriculture as part of its Rural R&D for Profit Program.  ICC are involved in the third component of this program along with Southern Growers (Finley), IREC (Whitton) and Central West Farming Systems (Condobolin) as part of the ‘Key learning sites southern – making the most of water’ project. This project looks to investigate ways to increase water productivity in the grains, cotton and rice industries with support from GRDC, CRDC and AgriFutures. 
Winter cropping irrigation scenarios, Northern Victoria

When to irrigate? Assessing economic costs and benefits

Todd Martin 4

➢ Pre-irrigating is a key factor to achieving high per mega litre and per hectare returns for barley, faba beans and canola.

➢ Irrigation of wheat at booting during late winter produced the highest Gross Margin and optimal use of water.

➢ Wheat is the most likely crop to offer high per mega litre returns during atypical market conditions during drought years under static input price and yield assumptions.

➢ Irrigation Farmers Network winter crop variety trials report a wide variation in yields and suitability of cultivars. Crop variety selection can help mitigate production risk and firm up crop revenues and subsequent water gross margins

Irrigation Farmers Network Irrigation Timing Demonstration


The demonstration was established to test the yield and grain quality of wheat to various irrigation scenarios. While some differences were noted, the demonstration was compromised by drought in late winter prior to the opening of the irrigation season. Yield potential was reduced through tiller death and the plants were unable to compensate once irrigation was applied.



Demonstrate the effect of timing and quantity of irrigation water on wheat yield and grain quality.




Table 1. Method summary

Sowing Date

15th May

Target Plant Population

160 plants/m2

Seeding Rate

78 kg/ha based on TGW*


17th August          1.1 Ml/ha All treatments


15th September   0.8 Ml/ha Booting Timing


21st September   1.0 Ml/ha Timing based on SMM@


4th October           0.5/1.1 Ml/ha Flowering Timing


14th October         1.0 Ml/ha Timing based on SMM@


250.1mm GSR (April – October)

N application

August 17th – 55 kg N/ha


3rd December

Average Yield

5.5 t/ha

*: Thousand Grain Weight. @ Soil Moisture Monitoring equipment reading 60-70 kPa


Murray Valley Soil Moisture Monitoring Network

One of the key outcomes from this project is the Murray Valley Soil Moisture Monitoring Network. Many irrigators are late with the first Spring irrigation. This delay has the potential to result in disappointing yields and a reduction in water use efficiency. The key is to monitor soil closely and irrigate on time. The network website allows farmers to keep track of the soil moisture levels in their area to assist with irrigation scheduling.

This network was made possible this season through the Smarter Irrigation for Profit Phase 2 ‘Key Learning Sites – making the most of water’ project.

Phase 1

Smarter Irrigation for Profit

Smarter Irrigation for Profit - Phase 1 found participating Australian irrigators could achieve a 10-30 percent improvement in water productivity by adopting precision irrigation technologies.

The Smarter Irrigation for Profit (SIP) project did valuable research into irrigation system audits, irrigation scheduling, investigation of new technology, evaluation of system design and water use efficiency. The project demonstrated that improved water productivity hinged on ‘getting the basics right’. It found that participating Australian irrigators could achieve a 10-20 percent improvement in farm profitability by adopting best practice and precision irrigation technologies.