Soil moisture monitoring advocated to reduce irrigation

This year's below-average rainfall means that growers should use irrigation systems only as needed, rather than as a matter of routine, Farm Advisory Service Team managing director Tim Biddlecombe has advised.

He recommended that irrigated orchards should have some form of soil moisture monitoring system that transmits readings to a logger or computer. Growers can then use them to decide when irrigation is necessary.

But he added: "With a single monitoring point, choosing the right site is crucial."

The lack of rain has already caused growers a few headaches this year, he said. "Rainfall in the spring was extremely low. It wasn't until July that non-irrigated fruit trees began to show moisture stress because they had already pushed their roots down seeking moisture."

For growers who had just planted orchards, trees then had to be watered individually, he explained.

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