[ASC-media] Vegetable industry doubles water-use efficiency

joanne.finlay at dpi.nsw.gov.au joanne.finlay at dpi.nsw.gov.au
Wed Nov 29 23:03:12 CET 2006


NSW DEPARTMENT OF PRIMARY INDUSTRIES
30 November 2006

Vegetable industry doubles water-use efficiency

Australia's vegetable industry is roughly twice as efficient in its use of 
water as it was a decade ago, according to a new national report.

Water specialists from across the nation have pooled their collective 
knowledge on water use in the vegetable industry to come up with the 
report titled Australian vegetable crops ? maximising returns from water.

Along with a detailed description of water use in the major vegetable 
production regions and associated river catchments, the report highlights 
the advances and investments that enabled the vegetable industry to 
achieve high water efficiencies. 

NSW Department of Primary Industries district horticulturist at Yanco, 
Mark Hickey, explained the results underscore the relatively low water use 
in the vegetable industry in terms of the high value of national output. 

"The value to the Australian economy is significant," Mr Hickey said.

"For every 1,000 meglitres of water used, the vegetable industry 
contributed $7.7 million of total regional output, and 80 jobs, according 
the last ABS survey conducted in 2001."

The report also provides a description of market orientation including 
domestic, processing and exports.

At the farm level, the value return from vegetable production increased 
from $1,762 per megalitre used in 1996/97 to $3,207/ML in 2000/01 (ABS 
2001).

Mr Hickey says the report helps explain the productivity increases, which 
can be partly attributed to increased use of water efficient delivery 
systems such as drip irrigation, increased use of recycling on farm, wide 
scale adoption of irrigation scheduling and soil moisture monitoring and a 
tendency towards whole farm planning and soil mapping. 

"Although more difficult to measure, some part of that increase in product 
value is most likely related to quality improvements as a direct result of 
improved irrigation practices," he said. 

"For instance, sub-surface drip irrigation tends to keep fruiting crops 
such as rockmelons cleaner and therefore more attractive to the consumer." 


Case studies were also conducted with vegetable growers who have recently 
switched to more water efficient irrigation systems. 

These case studies detail the costs and benefits which flow from a 
technology shift, and demonstrate that real investments being made in the 
industry at farm level. 

Funded by Horticulture Australia, the report was a joint initiative of NSW 
Department of Primary Industries water specialists at Yanco, their 
colleagues in five states, and CSIRO Land and Water.

The report also identifies issues for possible future research, which are 
likely to maximise returns on grower investment into water from research 
and development funds. 

Mr Hickey said the report would act as key reference on resource use for 
the Australian vegetable industry for many years to come, and pointed the 
way for further improvement to be made.

Contact Mark Hickey, NSW Department of Primary Industries, Yanco, (02) 
6951 2523, 0427 401 474

Joanne Finlay
Science Communication Specialist
NSW DEPARTMENT OF PRIMARY INDUSTRIES
PH: 63913171
Mobile: 0428 491813
Fax: 6391 3199

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