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VRI IS irrigation system supports mixed operation

VRI IS irrigation system

VRI IS irrigation system supports mixed operation

Yarrabee Park has been in the Stewart family since the 1950s when Joe Stewart’s grandfather bought the property. Located in Darfield, Canterbury, the land, before installing an irrigation system, was dry which made farming tough, especially in summer.

A mixed cropping and sheep operation, Yarrabee Park is 248 hectares (ha) of flat land, with Joe and his parents, Annette and Graham, owning approximately 193 ha while leasing another 55 ha. Crops grown on-farm include cereals, ryegrass, clover, process peas, brassicas, fodder beet, rape and kale while the operation fattens up to 5,000 lambs every year and winters 700 dairy cattle for 10 weeks of the year.

To support this intensive farming system, Joe contacted Doug Mercer, Sales & Design Manager from PGG Wrightson, for assistance with developing a pivot design to properly irrigate the farm. Installed in 2018, the Stewart’s use a VRI (Variable Rate Irrigation) IS (Individual Sprinkler) system from Valley Irrigation through their centre pivot.

To describe how the irrigation system works, Joe says, “the irrigation scheme delivers water to a turnout system on the farm boundary. From there, the water is sent down one straight pivot line to the pivot tower at the centre of the irrigator.”

The VRI IS system is a vital part of the operation and has improved the farm’s water efficiency as Joe explains. “As a mixed operation, we can have a paddock of cereal ready to harvest which does not require water, while planted in the next paddock is fodder beet which does. The system allows us to water varied crops using only one irrigator.”

“When we’re on stored water from the scheme, some days we may only be able to use 50 percent of our allocation. The VRI IS system allows us to water the crops that need it rather than wasting water on crops that do not.”

Joe manages the VRI IS system from his mobile phone, controlling the volume of water being delivered to each crop with ease. He can stop, start and reverse the irrigator, monitor the water pressure and the amount being delivered all from his phone. “This system has been a game changer for me; it saves me a great deal of time as I can control it via an app on my phone.”

The pivot gets maintained every winter by PGG Wrightson and Joe appreciates the service he receives from the team including Technical Advisor Mike Withers. “The team are really good, they ring me up and book in the service so I don’t have to think about it.”

“I receive technical advice and support from Mike and have benefited from him taking the time to educate me on the system,” says Joe. “If I have any questions, I can ring anytime. When I was first learning the system, Mike demonstrated how to use it; he made it easy for me to understand. Mike also helped set up GPS for the farm so the irrigator can accurately read where the paddock boundaries are.”