Stories: On the Farm
Howard Rowther - Darling Downs, Australia
How an Australian farmer saved water and boosted yield simultaneously
Drip tape irrigation has not only saved water for Queensland cotton grower Howard Rother, but also increased his yield.
In preparation for the upcoming season, Howard is converting more of his fields from flood irrigation to drip irrigation after reaping positive rewards last season.
Howard, who farms with his wife Rosa at Cecil Plains on the Darling Downs, said he saved 25 per cent in water and produced 25 per cent more cotton on his initial 10ha field.
“Saving water is really the same as making our water go further. If we can roll out more drip fields it saves labour, saves water and increases our yield,” Howard said.
After the success from 10ha, Howard was able to convert another 14ha field thanks to a water use efficiency grant from Cotton Australia, last year.
The farm also became myBMP (Best Management Practices) certified this year, a journey Howard described as a way to further improve his practices.
“There were a lot of things that the myBMP process encouraged us to do that we hadn’t done before – like bottom-fill fuel tanks, capacity monitors in our dam, bunding on our chemical shed and waste oil management,” Howard said.
Changes on the farm have progressed significantly in the past 28 years, after making the decision to swap from growing grain to cotton.
In addition to drip irrigation, Howard also uses moisture probes and water scheduling to ensure water isn’t wasted and his crop isn’t stressed during prolonged hot periods.
Howard said in the past hot weather would impact his cotton crop and put him “behind”. But by using special weather forecasting, moisture probes and an agronomist, Howard can schedule his watering depending on the weather.
“This way we are ahead of the curve and make sure our plants don’t get stressed, which is another way of increasing our yield,” Howard said.