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Gift of the gab: Irrigation Management Training’s Noel Johnston met with growers from the Adelaide Hills, Langhorne Creek and McLaren Vale to discuss the importance of irrigation scheduling.

Gift of the gab: Irrigation Management Training’s Noel Johnston met with growers from the Adelaide Hills, Langhorne Creek and McLaren Vale to discuss the importance of irrigation scheduling.

IRRIGATION scheduling could save big numbers on the bottom line of the wine industry each year by determining the correct frequency and duration of watering vines.

The aim is to apply just enough water to fully wet the plant’s root zone while minimising over-watering and allowing the soil to dry between waterings to allow air to enter the soil and encourage root development.

But the art of irrigation scheduling is to do this without stressing the plant – unless that’s the plan, of course.

That’s the message Noel Johnston conveyed to more than 20 grapegrowers at a water budgeting seminar hosted by Grape and Wine Research Development Corporation (GWRDC) Regional and the McLaren Vale Grape and Wine Tourism Association (MVGWTA) in June.

Johnston is the principal of Adelaide-based company Irrigation Management Training (IMT) and has been in the irrigation industry for more than 30 years.

He offers expert training in irrigation management to enhance on-farm irrigation and production practices.

According to Johnston, in order to develop an irrigation schedule a grower must have a planting plan, readily available water figures within each unit, flow rate and pressure for each unit and flow rate and pressure at the water source.

“Once you have this information, similar irrigation units and crop types can be grouped together to form irrigation shifts,” he says.

“But each shift must have similar plantings, soil types and irrigation systems for it to work effectively.”

There are many economic, environmental and agrinomic benefits of irrigation scheduling.

Economic benefits include control over yield and quality, a decrease in input costs and the ability to irrigate more area with the same amount of water.

Environmental benefits comprise the prevention of drainage to ground water, no wastage of fertiliser, minimal land degradation, the conservation of water and the prevention of algal blooms.

“It can save you a substantial amount of money in the long term and assist growers in becoming more environmentally friendly, which is an important thing in today’s society,” Johnston says.

Full story in the September 2014 issue of Grapegrower & Winemaker.

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