Using satellite technology to improve irrigation management on Victorian farms
The daily management of irrigation water supply to crops must take account of many variables, including crop type, soil type, irrigation system, weather (evaporative demand and rainfall), the volume of water in the soil, and the amount foliage cover of the soil surface. This is one of the most complex tasks undertaken by farmers. Recent developments in satellite technologies have allowed our scientists to measure water use and vegetation cover of all major irrigated crops grown in key irrigation districts of eastern Australia. From this information researchers have been able to describe the relationships between crop water use, vegetation cover of crops and on-ground weather.
This project targets all irrigation enterprises in Victoria, including in the Sunraysia Irrigation Region, the Goulburn-Murray Irrigation District and the Macallister Irrigation District. It is funded from July 2010 until June 2014.
The comprehensive study of water use and vegetation status of major irrigated crops in major irrigation districts of SE Australia was conducted during the drought years, 2007 -2010. This follow-up project sought to:
- Confirm and extend drought-year findings to post-drought conditions.
- Develop quantitative methods that combine satellite information (crop water use rates, vegetation status) with crop type information and on-ground weather data to provide irrigators with customised weather and vegetation data needed for improved irrigation management of irrigated crops in Victoria.
How will this research contribute to productivity?
The project has shown:
- Post-drought water use/vegetation responses seen in irrigated crops/pastures in Victoria were consistent with responses seen in drought years
- Mathematical relationships were derived relating irrigated crop evapotranspiration to crop type, crop vegetation status, and weather.
- Electronic methods of information delivery are being investigated to make satellite and weather data available to assist irrigators with crop and field customised irrigation water management guidelines.
- Satellite-based water-use methods have been incorporated in irrigation benchmarking studies conducted in the Goulburn Murray Irrigation and Macallister Irrigation Districts.
- New satellite applications are underdevelopment in Victoria for the determination of annual water limits, and regional water use planning and reporting.
Victorian irrigators, farmers, water planners and managers will have access to detailed scientific information describing the precise timing and amounts of water required by irrigated crops grown in Victoria, and the scientific information needed to underpin the adaptation of farms and catchments to existing and future constraints on irrigation water availability.
Research partner/s and collaborators
Publications and reports
Whitfield, D.M., O'Connell, M.G., McAllister, A., McClymont, L., Abuzar, M. and Sheffield, K. (2011). SEBAL-METRIC estimates of crop water requirement in horticultural crops grown in SE Australia. Acta Hort 922:141-148.
Senior Research Scientist, Remote Sensing Water Management