Exploring irrigation decision making

Growers, irrigation specialists and other industry representatives are sharing their experiences of irrigation practices in Mallee vineyards and almond and citrus orchards as part of a cross-state research project.

The Drought Resilience Adoption and Innovation Hub project aims to support growers to optimise their irrigation decisions, thereby improving crop production and enhancing farm-business resilience and sustainability under drought conditions.

Four drought hubs are involved in the project, including South Australia, Victoria, Tasmania and Southern NSW. The North-West Irrigated Horticulture Node, led by the Mallee Regional Innovation Centre, is the only participating Victorian region.

La Trobe University researcher Dr Natalie Araujo has been visiting Mildura to interview participants working in large-scale and smaller productions, irrigation management and industry organisations.

Dr Natalie Araujo

“We are hoping to interview as many people as possible over the next month to get a good representation of what is happening in the region so we can make convincing recommendations for policy and support that meet the needs of growers,” Natalie said.

“We are asking questions about irrigation decisions and the factors that influence decision making, the technologies people are using, and how people have responded to previous drought and extended hot periods.

“We are trying to do that in a really sensitive way because we are very aware that it has been a challenging season and growers are facing a number of pressures. We’re not asking these questions in a void – we are hoping to understand how those conditions over time impact on the long-term health of perennial horticulture in the region.

“This is research with an aim to improve and support the wine grape, citrus and almond industries to ensure they are healthy and sustainable into the future, and that they’re economically and climate viable.”

Natalie said the research would also contribute to the development or enhancement of irrigation scheduling tools and solutions.

“We will be writing a series of reports, and participants will also have access to the findings,” she said.

Existing participants have told us they find it difficult to learn what other people are doing, particularly what new programs or technologies are like in practice. So, I hope the findings will create a dialogue and that people will be able to connect with others to find out their experiences.

Anyone interested in participating in the study can contact Natalie at N.Araujo@latrobe.edu.au.

Interviews can be conducted face-to-face or over Zoom or the telephone.