Site Specific Management – 2012 Conference Summary

“Collaboration is the key,” Alastair Bisley told 160 people at the LandWISE Site Specific Management; growing within limits conference in Havelock North.

The “limits” that gave the LandWISE Conference its focus, are to ensure fresh water quality and quantity are maintained or enhanced. Reporting on the Land and Water Forum, Alastair said collaborative processes identify win-wins and produce more enduring outcomes – with community buy-in.

Collaborative processes place first responsibility on local users, stakeholders and iwi to determine detailed management objectives for catchments. They allow discussion of the benefits and costs of different approaches and determine time frames in which to achieve them.

Precision viticulture was a new event at the Conference. AGMARDT Keynote, Rob Bramley from CSIRO set the scene. A frequent trans-Tasman collaborator, Rob later explained how farmers can (in collaboration with specialists) use smart tools to conduct excellent research on their own farms and fine-tune management for each site.

LandWISE SFF project work with Villa Maria and Mission Estate showed clear benefits of detailed site assessment of soils and canopy vigour. Site specific management raised juice quality and significantly increased winery returns.

Attendees heard how GPS and GIS were used to track and understand the spread of PSA in kiwifruit and leaf roll virus in grapes. The recent fruit fly discovery reminds us just how at risk we are, and how smart we need to be to manage such events.

Tim Neale has collaborated with growers to track harvest vehicles, and to fit yield monitors on to potato, onion and carrot harvesters. The aim: to know where yield and revenue is coming from, and accordingly apply the right inputs at the right rate.

Hydro-Services collaborated with Environment Canterbury and NASA to monitor water use in greater detail using satellite imagery and soil moisture monitoring. FAR collaborated with Plant & Food and growers to develop AquaTRAC for irrigation scheduling with economic considerations.

The final session was a field trip to Hugh Ritchie’s property to view Site Specific Management in action. The site has a variable rate pivot irrigator, a weather station and soil moisture monitoring, and is under-going extensive drainage development.

Without the efficiency gains achievable with variable rate irrigation Hugh could not cover the whole area with the limited water available. The towable pivot has three positions. The VRI avoids overlapping and speeds the machine to reduce return intervals.

One of two drain-laying machines demonstrated uses RTK-GPS, allowing it to optimise fall at multiple grades to maintain depth between pre-set depths. The tile pipe is pulled into the ground, complete with a gravel envelope, as a single operation.

A land levelling scraper, also controlled with RTK-GPS was demonstrated. Topsoil is stockpiled, the sub-soil cut and filled to grade, and topsoil replaced. A key innovation of both GPS drainage systems is that all calculations are completed on-the-go in the tractor cab.

The first LandWISE conference in 2003 attracted 70 people to discuss soil quality, cultivation practice and efficient irrigation. The tenth brought 160 people from across New Zealand and from Australia and the UK to talk about doing the right thing, whatever it is, in the right place at the right time.

Future cropping will see each site having specific management applied to ensure profitable production with environmental stewardship. A focus on soil quality and water care, together with the use of smart tools will be critical. LandWISE looks forward to supporting that progression.

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