Cane grower Leon Franchina

Cane grower reduces pumping costs

Burdekin cane grower Leon Franchina’s efforts to improve the efficiency of irrigation water use are paying off.

Mr Franchina has modified his irrigation practices and technology used on his farm resulting in less water and electricity costs, and reduced irrigation run off.

GDots, a scheduling tool, were installed in representative blocks to monitor soil moisture across the farm so irrigation timing could be matched to crop water use and soil type.

Mr Franchina also addressed soil troublespots on the property by laser leveling and adding ash and mill mud to improve sandy areas in the paddock. 

This increased soil water holding capacity has helped to combat deep drainage and improve irrigation efficiency.

As a result Mr Franchina is applying small irrigation volumes more frequently rather than large volumes less often. He is delighted with the results.

“I have significantly reduced water use, from up to four megalitres per hectare to less than one megalitre,” Mr Franchina said.

“I’m also irrigating more efficiently, saving two to three days out of an 11-day irrigation cycle.

“This is definitely a more scientific approach to delivering what the crop needs in the way of water. I’m only putting on what the plants need a day.

“It’s highlighted that you can’t manage what you can’t measure. Receiving real time information from the GDots means we can make informed decisions around irrigation scheduling, which is also improving business efficiency,” he said.

Mr Franchina said the assistance received through The Reef Alliance Program Phase II had made it possible for him to fast track his irrigation improvements by at least five years.

The program has supported Mr Franchina to develop an irrigation improvement plan, as well as tailored extension and agronomic support.

“Through this project I’ve been able to reduce water usage by 140 megalitres per year and cut my pumping costs by a third,” Mr Franchina said.

NQ Dry Tropics Sugarcane project officer Michael Hobbs said the project was helping Mr Franchina to achieve real outcomes on the ground and assisting to implement changes to farming practices faster than growers otherwise would have been able. 

“Mr Franchina has been able to improve irrigation efficiency and save water without sacrificing yield,” Mr Hobbs said.

“He has been able to improve irrigation application efficiency by incorporating crop growth measurements and water use data into the irrigation schedule, and adjusting irrigation volumes to suit the amount of water used by the crop since the last irrigation,” he said.

The Reef Alliance Program is funded by the partnership between the Australian Government’s Reef Trust and the Great Barrier Reef Foundation.