Almond irrigation best practice management (AL17004)
What was it all about?
Growing almonds requires large amounts of water. This contributes significantly to operating costs, particularly for orchards that are required to lease their water. Efficient water use guards against periods of water scarcity and helps growers minimise production costs while maximising yield.
Australian almond farms predominantly use drip irrigation systems which are believed to be more efficient than sprinklers and work well with tree-shaking harvest practices. General information about irrigation management and maintenance procedures is readily available, however many almond irrigation systems do not perform to the expected standards. A key problem is the flow rate from individual drippers within an irrigation valve unit.
This project was designed to:
- Scope the extent of the problem, and provide general feedback to the whole industry
- Provide tools so that individual almond growers could assess and audit the performance of their own irrigation systems
- Direct almond growers to relevant information sources to help improve on-farm irrigation efficiency.
The project conducted an audit of drip irrigation systems in almond orchards across the Northern Adelaide Plains, Riverland, Sunraysia and Riverina districts. Irrigation evaluations were carried out on 50 irrigation valve units, with dripper pressure and flow rate measured at multiple locations across each valve unit. The manager of each site was interviewed to aid interpretation of the field assessment results.
The research team found that the two most important management factors for good drip irrigation system performance are dripline age and flushing frequency. To address these, the team recommended conducting regular system performance assessments to monitor for a decline in valve unit performance, which may indicate the need for dripline replacement. They also recommended for drip irrigation systems to be flushed frequently, as insurance against gradual build-up of debris in the system.
A Drip Irrigation Evaluation Tool was developed by the team for growers to test and compare the performance of their system’s irrigation valve units against industry audit data.
The Evaluation Tool and a summary of the project is available on the Almond Board of Australia website.
Visit the Almond Irrigation Efficiency website to access the Drip Irrigation Evaluation Tool, which is designed to help assess the performance of drip irrigation systems. The site also includes information and resources to help improve irrigation efficiency.
This project was a strategic levy investment in the Hort Innovation Almond Fund