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Water balance of centre pivot irrigated pasture in northern Victoria, Australia


  • Qassim, Abdi
  • Dunin, Frank
  • Bethune, Matthew


The irrigated dairy industry in Australia depends on pasture as a low-cost source of fodder for milk production. The industry is under increasing pressure to use limited water resources more efficiently. Pasture is commonly irrigated using border-check but there is growing interest amongst dairy irrigators to explore the potential for overhead sprinklers to save water and/or increase productivity. This paper reports on a detailed water balance study that evaluated the effectiveness of centre pivot irrigation for pasture production. The study was conducted between 2004/2005 and 2005/2006 on a commercial dairy farm in the Shepparton Irrigation Region in northern Victoria. More than 90% of supplied water (irrigation plus rainfall) was utilized for pasture growth. Deep drainage of respectively 90 and 93 mm was recorded for the two observation seasons. During the 2004/2005 season, deep drainage resulted from large unseasonal summer rainfall events. Over the 2005/2006 season, deep drainage resulted from excess irrigation. The cumulative pasture dry matter (DM) production was 15.5 and 11.3 tonnes dM ha-1 for the two irrigation seasons, with an agronomic water use efficiency (WUE) of 16 and 12 kg DM ha-1 mm-1 respectively. The farmer's intuitive irrigation scheduling was found to be very effective; the pattern of irrigation application closely matched measured pasture water use, prevented water stress and resulted in high irrigation efficiency.

Suggested Citation

  • Qassim, Abdi & Dunin, Frank & Bethune, Matthew, 2008. "Water balance of centre pivot irrigated pasture in northern Victoria, Australia," Agricultural Water Management, Elsevier, vol. 95(5), pages 566-574, May.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:agiwat:v:95:y:2008:i:5:p:566-574

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Allen, Richard G. & Pruitt, William O. & Wright, James L. & Howell, Terry A. & Ventura, Francesca & Snyder, Richard & Itenfisu, Daniel & Steduto, Pasquale & Berengena, Joaquin & Yrisarry, Javier Basel, 2006. "A recommendation on standardized surface resistance for hourly calculation of reference ETo by the FAO56 Penman-Monteith method," Agricultural Water Management, Elsevier, vol. 81(1-2), pages 1-22, March.
    2. Ayars, J. E. & Phene, C. J. & Hutmacher, R. B. & Davis, K. R. & Schoneman, R. A. & Vail, S. S. & Mead, R. M., 1999. "Subsurface drip irrigation of row crops: a review of 15 years of research at the Water Management Research Laboratory," Agricultural Water Management, Elsevier, vol. 42(1), pages 1-27, September.
    3. Al-Jamal, M. S. & Ball, S. & Sammis, T. W., 2001. "Comparison of sprinkler, trickle and furrow irrigation efficiencies for onion production," Agricultural Water Management, Elsevier, vol. 46(3), pages 253-266, January.
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    Cited by:

    1. Greenwood, K.L. & Lawson, A.R. & Kelly, K.B., 2009. "The water balance of irrigated forages in northern Victoria, Australia," Agricultural Water Management, Elsevier, vol. 96(5), pages 847-858, May.
    2. Barros, R. & Isidoro, D. & Aragüés, R., 2011. "Long-term water balances in La Violada irrigation district (Spain): I. Sequential assessment and minimization of closing errors," Agricultural Water Management, Elsevier, vol. 102(1), pages 35-45.
    3. Frank, F.C. & Viglizzo, E.F., 2012. "Water use in rain-fed farming at different scales in the Pampas of Argentina," Agricultural Systems, Elsevier, vol. 109(C), pages 35-42.

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