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Center Pivot Irrigation Systems in New Zealand

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Written by Quinn Elstone |

New Zealand: A small island nation working hard to produce great products to feed the world, while protecting its much-heralded welcoming environment. New Zealand is a country of 4 million people, producing food to feed upwards of 40 million people, with over 95% of our agricultural products exported to all corners of the world.

New Zealand’s major economic income is often referred to as our “environment.” Agriculture and tourism are our two largest producers, with both industries working hard to promote our products and country to the world.

Irrigation – Part of the Landscape

NZ blog2Valley® center pivots irrigate a wide variety of crops in New Zealand's diverse agricultural landscape. Photo Credit: WaterForce Limited

Irrigation has been a part of the New Zealand landscape since the 1930s, supplying much-needed water to a wide range of crops and livestock, from wine to dairy, from avocados to deer (and everything in between). As a major supplier of dairy products to world markets for many years, irrigating pasture has become a major part of the local irrigation market. The practice also continues to evolve through technology and innovation, as the industry looks to continuously improve and lead the world while reducing our environmental impact.

Currently, New Zealand irrigates more than 700,000 hectares (1.7 million acres) across the country through all forms of agriculture, horticulture and viticulture.

NZ blog3New Zealand irrigators strive to minimize their environmental footprint. Photo Credit: WaterForce Limited

New Zealand has a very mild climate. Winters are not extreme, and neither are summers. But with the country being a long island nation, we see a huge range in climate variation. That characteristic, combined with often light and young soils, gives us the ability to grow a wide variety of crops, often with world-leading yields.

Still, we actively seek to lessen our environmental footprint. With our young soils, we work hard to minimise runoff and drainage risks, and ensure that the water used is producing benefits. Sometimes this comes through technologies like soil moisture monitoring and Variable Rate Irrigation (VRI), but also through great industry engagement, with all parties involved working together to achieve a “best management practice” for each production sector.

Pivot application rates are often between 3.5-5mm/day, or 25-35mm (0.9-1.3 inches) per week on 2-3 day rotations, while also using the same pivot irrigators to distribute the dairy parlour waste over a wide irrigation footprint.

NZ blog1Sustainable dairy farming and responsible wastewater application are points of emphasis. Photo Credit: WaterForce Limited

Efficiency in Dairy Production

“Dairying” is one of the major agricultural exports for New Zealand. Unlike many nations, our dairying is focused around grazing cows on pasture in a sustainable manner – where the cows are walked to the parlour, often twice daily, before being returned to graze fresh pastures.

Irrigation has formed a large part of our increase in dairy production since the late 1990s, with dry land conversion, as well as continued development of existing flood irrigation and lower-efficiency spray irrigation land being upgraded to centre pivot irrigation. With this conversion has come the ability to use water more efficiently, as well as improving the distribution and control of dairy waste applications, and over wider areas.

NZ blog4High-efficiency sprinkler packages are an important part of any center pivot irrigation system. Photo Credit: WaterForce Limited

Efficiency is key to achieving best management practices for our farmers, aiming to use less water and fewer nutrients to produce a high-quality product for lower cost, while aiming for the lowest environmental impact possible.

We may be a small nation, but we work hard to produce quality products. Through innovation, technology and good management, we ensure that farming is sustainable and adds economic and environmental benefits for the good of the country – and the world!

Come visit us!

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