FARMVIEW Episode 4.2 transcript
Episode 4.2 - Soil moisture monitoring
AGRICO, Goulburn Valley
It takes a lot of the guess work out of how much water to use, how much water does the tree require. A lot of times, and I have been a farmer for a long time, I have been a fruit farmer for 41 years I think, we have used a lot of guess work and sometimes we might overwater and sometimes you probably under water and we really do not know, we just use what you might call experience.
We started off with the G Bugs initially, once we had seen the benefits we had to have more so the following year we put in eight. In the next couple of years I will be looking at putting in a couple of more in. We installed the Gypsum blocks at 15 cm, 30 cm, 45 cm and 60 cm. Some blocks we might have had two blocks side by side. Say for instance an apple block and a plum block, we might have separated a couple of wires and ran at 15 and 30 on one block and a 15 and 30 on another block. There are more shallow rooted blocks of course, whereas your big pear trees you tend to make advantage of the 60 cm Gypsum blocks.
The slight, tap the J bug, enter the information that you are just transferring into the retriever it is reading four sites. That is three weeks information done. You put the data line to log the data onto the computer, a very simple process. Plug it in, press a couple of buttons and she is done. Three weeks worth of information just like that.
We can see what is happening in the previous three weeks. It gives a reading of every 2 hours throughout the day, throughout the night, it just keeps going and once you put it onto the computer it shows a graph and you can see how quick it takes for that moisture to dry out and it makes it very easy to programme your next irrigation. Because I was using tensiometers for such a long time, they were a lot of work. You had to go out to the orchard a couple of times a week, you had to fill the tensiometers with water, keep them topped up. It was okay but a lot of work. Then once these G bugs come on board and knowing what they can do given a reading of three weeks worth of information, it just took a lot of the guess work out of it. I can get around 350 acres in 30 minutes. That is getting me out to the orchard, I can see what is happening, whether there are any blocked sprinklers or any problems with the trees or anything. I am out in the field and ever since I put them in, it has just been flowing a lot easier.
With the information we received out of that logger, we can plan our spraying activities, slashing, picking, thinning, we can plan everything right around the irrigation because we can just pin point where we need to irrigate next. We are irrigating some blocks now, but we irrigate them twice a week to every 5 days now and that has improved efficiency a lot. It is not something I would have expected but the other thing is to it showing up problems in the blocks that we do not realise too. We have one block there where we were not getting any soil penetration. That is the water is only going about 2 inches into the ground. I bring up coals and thought we might have had a problem with the G Bugs, but actually we had a problem with the soil and we recorded a Gypsum and other organic material and within 6 months the problem was solved. So it is fixing a few more problems out there than what you give it credit for.
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