Its A Bit Wet

Well its not flooding in Moree but its still very very wet and its making it a bit tricky to get around the farm or just get any where, including up the driveway where I had water go over the bonnet of my Holden ute (water wasn’t moving only risk was electronics failure and a short walk in the rain). By around lunch time today we’d had 100 millimetres of rain and counting but it seems to have stopped now, worried that it might keep raining and cut the road I made the mistake of going out to the farm to drop in my time sheet and then decided to stick around and take a few photos.  Three hours later I was still there.

I was tagging along with manager and the other two fellas who had came into work, water was backing up into the cotton fields and had to be moved quickly to stop water logging. It is a challenge that is a lot easier said then done as the backing up water wasn’t just from the rain falling on the fields and the farm but it was also from the water that was rushing across from the neighbouring property. Even with pumps going at full pace and the gates fully open water was still managing to run over the drop boxes and blow out some channels. The majority of gates are hand operated but some need a hydraulic pump that it run off the ute’s gear box, its a great help for opening some of the real big gates on the property. The water also made it a real challenge to get around.

Just going up the driveway was a big enough challenge with the mud and the neighbours run off giving my commodore a bit of trouble (again there was no danger even though it was fast flowing water it wasn’t deep and the only risk was getting bogged and a awkward phone call), but the commodore powered through and made it to the shed. When I got the shed I got it the old 1996 Toyota Hilux, its an old thing and really battled in spots to get through when the speedo was reading a very optimistic 30 kmph, the engine revving over 4000 rpm, steam coming off the bonnet and more smoke coming out the exhaust then a steam engine. We didn’t get bogged but there where a few close calls and we got very close to the edge of some channels at various times.

We eventually got all the gates set up and water was starting to drain, so as soon as we were back at the shed I jumped soaking wet into my ute and heading straight out the gate. With over 100 millimetres of rain we’ll be able to skip an irrigation so I’ll have a bit of spare time on my hands, I got a fair bit of video footage so I’ll probably try and put them together into some sort of video.

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Checking The Probes

The moisture probes are critical to running of an irrigation property, they tell us how much water is in the soil profile, how much water the crop is using and most important it tells us when we need irrigate the cotton. There are a couple of types of moisture probes about; one type is a electrical probe that works by measuring the conductivity between two wires in the ground, the better the conductivity the more moisture.

The type of moisture probe we use is called a Neutron Moisture Probe we have been using it on the farm for years and find it to be simple and effective method, it works by lowering the probe down a aluminium tube in the ground, the probe then release fast neutrons which lose energy and slow down when they collide with hydrogen the slow neutrons are detected and give a reading. The probe then takes more readings at different depths to give a complete picture of the moisture profile, then once all readings are completed the probe is plugged into the computer which makes up a graph showing the moisture level, usage and how long till irrigation is needed, making managing the crop a whole lot easier. Unfortunately because it uses radiation the operator needs to be accredited so its usually done by the farm agronomist.

If you have any questions on the moisture probes or anything else just leave a comment.

For more amazing sights in the world of farming check out Farming Photo’s

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Full Circle

We’ve come full circle finishing one round of irrigation and getting straight into the next, starting back at the first field irrigated and slowly working our way back through. We’re currently running three fields at a time which is about the maximum we can run at a time before the water gets too hard to manage and levels drop to much or rise to much and blow the banks like we did early yesterday morning.

There are a couple of ways to tell when the crop needs watering the main one is to use a moisture probe, the moisture probe is a box that is placed over a tube going down into the soil, it then emits a small amount of radiation and works out were the moisture level is, it is then plugged into a computer which does up a graph showing the water level and daily usage as well as how many days until it needs to be watered. This is the most accurate way to measure the level and is done regularly, often daily by the agronomist. The other way is to do it by sight looking for visual clues such as wilting and drooping leaves, its not as accurate we only use it to decide which field to start first if the probe readings are similar.

We use furrow irrigation its the most popular type of irrigation compared to other methods such as overhead, drip or bank less channel, we find its the most efficient way of getting best yield for water used. Furrow irrigation involves hand primed siphons (2-3 metre sections of 2 or 3 inch poly pipe) drawing water from the head ditch and into the furrows that run down the field, when the water gets to end of the field it is collected in the tail drain and drained away to a channel were it is pumped back up into the head ditch so nothing is wasted.

If their is anything else you want to know just ask in the comments and sorry if the photos are getting a bit repetitive but their is only so much I can photograph while working night shift.

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The Night Is For Irrigating

The last two nights have been fairly steady we’ve just been starting and stopping siphons slowly moving from one field to another, it can make for some long nights waiting for the water to run down the 1.2 kilometre rows. The water should only be on a section of the field for no more than eight hours at a time otherwise it will water log the cotton and stunt the plants growth, with the mixture of the long rows and the time limit it takes more siphons than normal to get the water though, as we’ll use one three inch siphons and two two inch siphons in some bays just to get the water down the rows in time.

You see a lot on animals during the night that you wouldn’t normally see during the day, these include a lot of feral animals such as pigs and a lot of foxes. The pigs are keep in check by hunters who visit the property regularly, they trap them in cages, kill them and sell for them for dog food, making an asset out of a pest helping to encourage their control. Unfortunately the same can not be said for the foxes whose numbers have risen since the end of the fur trade when a foxes skin could fetch up to $50. In an area that is mainly cropped foxes aren’t much of a problem to the land owner who already has a range of more serious and important issues on their plate, so understandably their numbers can creep up over time causing harm to native animals. I believe it would great to see a Feral Fur line of fashion or the introduction of a bounty to help curve their numbers.

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Back At It

Irrigation started again yesterday after being stopped just after Christmas thanks to 20mm of rain that fell last Friday. Last night looked like it was going to be a easy night with only one field on the go but it was not to be, after pulling some stragglers the water level rose suddenly so we had to start more pipes only we started to many and the level dropped to far. So the we spent the rest of the night trying to keep the water up to the field, the rows only started to come through by the morning making for long slow night.

We weren’t the only ones working New Years the spray contractor came out early and started spraying at about three in the morning, they hadn’t been out celebrating but the long hours they work must of added up because he fell asleep at the wheel and drove out the end of the field and straight into an empty head ditch, luckily no one was hurt in the accident and it didn’t occur on the return run as he would of ended up in a main supply channel giving him a very wet start to the new year.

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Water Water Water

We can’t live with out it and neither can the cattle which can make keeping the water up to them a never ending mission. The new turkey nest is still not at level were it can supply the troughs so i’m still manually carting water to them 1000 liters at time, although this sounds like a lot of water it disappears quickly when your watering a few hundred head of cattle. One of our main pumps has also been having some problems continually shutting down with out explanation, it turns out the intake pipe has been sucking in and closing up causing the pump to stall, with this fixed its now supplying the dam with water again and not a moment too soon as it has already dropped in level. Their are storms all around Humbert tonight so hopefully one of them will drift onto us bringing much needed rain.

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Keeping Up The Water

As the weather delayed the completion of the final turkey nest the cattle were starting to run low on water so I’ve spent the day running water to troughs, 1000 liters at a time. Its a slow process with the tank taking half a hour to fill each time from the bore, the cattle clean up the water quickly so its a constant and never ending process. Fortunately the nest has been finished and there’ll be water in the troughs again by  tomorrow afternoon. Yesterday we picked up our tractor and post ram from our yards on the outside of town only to find that they had been vandalized, wiring was cut, battery was missing, fuel bowl was broken and the fuel was drained, unfortunately these problems can occur when leaving things close to town for an extented period of time.

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