MAKING every drop of on farm water count towards boosting yields is essential for most cropping producers across the country.
Effectively managing water has become essential across cropping enterprises as rainfall becomes more inconsistent and the price of irrigation water has increased.
Broad scale farmer, Sib Rapisarda, “Rapisarda Farming”, has an irrigation property located in the Burdekin, where he produces rockmelons, watermelons and sugar cane.
Earlier this year, Mr Rapisarda was concerned with the soil variation in his paddocks and the fact water wasn’t able to drain effectively.
He decided to work with Vantage NEA and their Soil Information System (SiS) services with a goal of improving drainage and producing a more uniform paddock.
After Vantage NEA precision agronomist, Bryan Granshaw, conducted SiS analysis on the Paddock, the information was used to create a levelling plan for Mr Rapisarda that would provide an even layer of top soil across the paddock, boosting yield consistency and water management.
At the top end of one of his melon paddocks, there was a surplus of top soil that provided a good growing environment for melons; compared to the bottom end, which had shallow top soil and an abundance of clay underneath.
Vantage-NEA used their SiS equipment to provide spatially relevant soil information to Mr Rapisarda.
Using the SiS’ unique multi sensored soil probe, Mr Granshaw was able to obtain information on the physical attributes of Mr Rapisarda’s soil, including the soil horizon thickness, the clay and sand percentage at both surface level and depth (to 1200mm) and the soil texture.
“Through understanding what the underlying soil characteristics were, we were able to develop a design that told us where we couldn’t and could take soil from,” he said.
The SiS system determined the top soil depth of Mr Rapisarda’s paddock, allowing Vantage NEA to create a non-planar field design, using OptiSurface technology, that balanced the amount of topsoil moved without scalping the field, and still ensuring effective drainage.
“We were able to determine where we could take cuts from the paddock without bringing any clay to the surface,” Mr Granshaw said.
Having efficient water drainage capabilities in his paddocks was essential for Mr Rapisarda, as waterlogging could be extremely detrimental to melon production.
The bottom end of Mr Rapisarda’s paddock was quite flat prior to being levelled, making it vulnerable to water pooling after excessive rain or irrigation.
The field design plan was developed to solve the two issues affecting the bottom end of Mr Rapisarda’s paddock, one being the fact that it didn’t drain properly and the other being that it was lacking soil quality.
To address the drainage issue, the OptiSurface design increased the slope of the bottom end of the paddock by taking some of the paddock’s sandier soils (from the top end) and mixing it with the deeper clay found at the bottom end of the paddock.
Moving soil from the top end of the paddock to the bottom end also made the topsoils of the paddock more consistent.
Mr Granshaw said that using SiS and OptiSurface to amend issues in Mr Rapisarda’s paddock saved significant costs.
“Completing this job using a Multiplane design would have required Sib to move 40,000 cubic metres of material,” he said.
“The Opti-Surface design required only 30,901 cubic metres of soil to be shifted.”
“At $3 cubic metre, the farmer was $23,000 better off financially, using SiS and the OptiSurface design system.”
Mr Rapisarda said since the levelling has been completed on his paddocks, he said they had been easier to farm and there’s been a big improvement to its water drainage capability.
“We’ve also been able to produce better crops at the bottom end of the paddock now,” he said.
Mr Rapisarda said using the SiS technology allowed him to understand exactly what needed to happen with his paddock to improve it.
“It took the guess work out of it,” he said.