INNOVATION PUSHES AG SECTOR HIGHER

Farm businesses in the Macalister Irrigation District are more efficient, productive, resilient and less polluting following the conclusion of a state government program. 

The sustainable irrigation program (SIP) managed by the West Gippsland Catchment Management Authority (WGCMA) saw $2 million of funding allocated to a range of irrigation initiatives leading to a further $7 million in investment by individual farm businesses. 

“This is a prime example of the great outcomes that happen when government agencies and the farming sector get together with common goals,” said WGCMA CEO Mr Martin Fuller. 

“The sustainable irrigation program saw more than 8,000 hectares of land reviewed under the irrigation farm plan process. This equates to around one fifth of the total area of the Macalister Irrigation District and in itself is the basis for future innovation, investment and productivity and a further 3,500 hectares of improved irrigation through the on-farm incentives part of the program. 

The success and demand for the Farm Planning Program is evidence of the progressive culture locally where conducting a Whole Farm Plan is now seen as an essential aspect of future planning for any farm business. 

The investment in new and more efficient irrigation systems, which has seen around 7,000 megalitres in water savings annually, valued at around $1.4 million per year, reflects the demand by farmers to make the best possible use of every drop of irrigation water that comes onto their property,” added Mr Fuller. 

Better planning on farms and more efficient, modern irrigation systems has also had a positive impact on the local environment with a notable reduction in nutrient laden irrigation water leaving farms, entering drains and creeks, and ending up in the Gippsland Lakes. 

“Monitoring for nutrient from the MID shows that some of the measures we look for hit an all-time low over the last four years,” said WGCMA Lands Program Co-ordinator Mr Anthony Goode. 

“It is a great reflection on the local farming community that the hard work and considerable investment over recent years has seen a significant reduction in farm run-off and nutrient being exported into local waterways,” added Anthony. 

The on-going drought meant the program needed to adjust to meet the changing needs of the farming community. 

“We certainly found that the drought impacted on farmer expectations and how individual farm businesses approached issues like future planning and investment,” said Anthony. 

“Over the life of the program, we were involved in more than 1,500 individual interactions with irrigators including almost 100 that were specifically related to the drought and immediate on farm demands and decisions. 

Arguably, this work with farm businesses that were going through a really tough time is probably one of the biggest, most important parts of the work we were able to be a part of,” concluded Anthony. 

WGCMA is currently finalising a new funding arrangement with the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning that will see the irrigation program continue to support the Gippsland irrigation community over the next four years.  

To register your interest in being involved in the program, please email anthonyg@wgcma.vic.gov.au 

 

UPLOADED WEDNESDAY MARCH 18 2021

WGCMA Sustainable Agriculture Project Officer Brad Missen with dairy farmer Alex MacArthur and Agriculture Victoria's Billy Marshall.
Vegetable farm - Newry