Learnings from recent Western Australian Growers’ Irrigation Forum
By Steve Blyth, Plant Protection Officer, Western Australia/Northern Territory
Attendees visiting the NIASA accredited Cockburn Wetlands Centre nursery
Over 30 nursery industry members attended a very informative water and irrigation workshop in Western Australia. Nursery & Garden Industry Western Australia (NGIWA) and Greenlife Industry Australia (GIA) jointly organised this event, which was held at the recently developed Cockburn Wetlands Centre.
The Cockburn Wetlands Centre is a beautiful new facility which includes a new production nursery built to Nursery Industry Accreditation Scheme Australia (NIASA) standards and currently progressing through the final stages of accreditation.
After enjoying the 7.30am free coffee from the mobile coffee van, we were immediately enthralled by the presentation from Dan Ferguson representing the Western Australian Department of Water and Environmental Regulation. Dan expertly explained the current issues regarding the supply of ground water to customers and gave attendees the science and modelling behind a State Government driven 10 per cent reduction to water allocations in certain areas of Western Australia (WA). It was a sobering thought when looking at climate change predictions for the rainfall events in the future and how everyone will be affected.
L-R: Steve Blyth (GIA), Matt Lunn (NGIWA CEO) and Richard Upton (Netafim). Presenters at the WA Irrigation Forum
Richard Upton from Netafim followed with an informative presentation looking at irrigation systems. He told us how to calculate for efficiencies, gave examples of different designs and walked through an online program called NetSpeX. This program is freely available online for users to test various irrigation designs.
After a COVID-19 compliant morning tea, I spoke about my real-life experiences as a previous production nursery owner faced with water issues. I used my past business as a case study to demonstrate how a complete review of nursery production, including water use, resulted in an overall 25% reduction in water costs.
One of the overall themes of the workshop was sustainability. I spoke about the ‘NY20001 National biosecurity and sustainable plant production program' that I am delivering in WA and the Northern Territory (NT). The relevant irrigation areas within the nursery industry’s environmental management program, EcoHort, were highlighted with attendees encouraged to investigate this program further for possible adoption.
A good attendance at the Western Australian (WA) Irrigation forum
Lastly, I looked at the new Audit Management System and spoke about the digital Best Management Practice templates available to businesses, particularly those templates relating to irrigation and water use. This advance in digitisation allows growers to efficiently undertake in-field record keeping, reporting and job tasking via mobile phones, tablets and via a PC in the office.
The morning finished off with an informative tour through the new nursery facility at Cockburn Wetlands Centre highlighting some of the issues faced during construction and how the NIASA best management practice guidelines were used as a reference to address those issues.
Some feedback from event participants included “Beautiful venue”, “Very informative”, “Keep them coming”, “Love being a part of these events”, “Real and relevant information”.
Matt Lunn, NGIWA CEO, and I are already working on the next informative forum to be held later in the year.
Western Australian/Northern Territory growers
If you would like to arrange an on-site extension visit to explore the adoption and implementation of sustainable plant production systems at your nursery, please contact me at email@example.com.
The ‘National biosecurity and sustainable plant production program’ (NY20001) project is funded by Hort Innovation using nursery research and development levy and funds from the Australian Government.