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L.H. McCormick, I.J. Collett, D.R. Zimmermann, P.T. Hayman and L.A. Hyson

NSW Agriculture, 'PO Box 71 Manilla NSW 2346, Box 547 Tamworth NSW 2350

"Haymaker" is an initiative of the Peel and Upper Namoi Valley Irrigation Project Team to increase the economic performance and water use efficiency of irrigated lucerne production. The project area is located on the north west slopes and plains of NSW and comprises the Peel and Upper Namoi Valleys above Keepit Dam. This area includes the shires of Manilla, Parry, Nundle and Tamworth City a total area of approximately 11,000 square kilometres.

The study area includes about 16,600 hectares which are authorised for irrigation, the majority now from regulated streams, with a potential production value of $22 million. Analysis of Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics statistics on irrigated lucerne production, which represents 50% of the total area of irrigated crops within the study area, indicated that average production was approximately 9 t/ha while trials indicated potential yields in the order of 21 Oa or higher.


Haymaker aims to address this problem by combining the practical knowledge of growers, scientific principles and research results. Lucerne growers record production and physical inputs over the growing season. An agronomy and engineering inspection supports the data supplied by growers and this information is then analysed using a spreadsheet model written by Peter Hayman in 'As Easy As'.

A comprehensive report to growers details:

  • The economic performance of the stand and a confidential gross margin.
  • A graphical review of soil moisture fluctuations under a rainfall and irrigation regime called the Seasonal Irrigation Review (SIR).
  • Graphs on lucerne water use, growth curves, rainfall, costs and yields.

Results and discussion

The pilot program conducted in the 1990 irrigation season indicated that 50% of pumps require renovation or replacement due to excessive wear, evapotranspiration increased in spring and this was not matched with irrigation, causing moisture stress. Yields ranged from 9-18 t/ha with gross margins of $850-$2,140/ha respectively.

The Haymaker graphical report, which also includes the average figures for the district, is intended to facilitate

Discussion between the grower, agronomist, economist and engineer to identify the strengths and weakness in their own enterprise as a decision support system. From this report in combination with two workshops, held in October 1991, irrigators are now able to identify on-farm problems and make the management changes and modifications to irrigation equipment to improve irrigation efficiency and profitability.

This package should have application over a wide area of the state wherever irrigated lucerne is produced.

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