University Of Tasmania

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Potential of deficit irrigation to increase marginal irrigation response of perennial ryegrass (Lolium perenne L.) on Tasmanian dairy farms

journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-16, 22:19 authored by Richard RawnsleyRichard Rawnsley, Cullen, BR, Lydia TurnerLydia Turner, Donaghy, DJ, Mark FreemanMark Freeman, Karen Christie
In the cool temperate dairy regions of Tasmania, there is heavy reliance on irrigation to maximise pasture performance by ensuring that plants do not suffer water stress. Consequently, irrigation water has often been applied at a greater amount than plant water requirements, resulting in low efficiencies. An irrigation experiment was undertaken in north-western Tasmania between October 2007 and April 2008, examining the effect of deficit irrigation treatments on pasture growth and water-use efficiency. A rainfall deficit (potential evapotranspiration minus rainfall) of 20mm was implemented to schedule irrigation, at which point 20, 16, 12, 8, or 0mm of irrigation water was applied, referred to as treatments I100%, I80%, I60%, I40%, and I0%, respectively. The trial was a randomised complete block design with 4 replications. There were 21 irrigation events between October and April. The experimental area was grazed by 60 Holstein Friesian heifers at a grazing interval coinciding with emergence of 2.53.0 new ryegrass leaves/tiller of the I100% treatment. Cumulative pasture consumption for the irrigated period was 9.2, 8.9, 7.6, 6.9, and 3.7tdrymatter(DM)/ha for the I100%, I80%, I60%, I40%, and I0% treatments, respectively. The resulting marginal irrigation water-use index (MIWUI; marginal production due to irrigation) was 1.29, 1.54, 1.55, and 1.87tDM/ML, for the I100%, I80%, I60%, and I40% treatments, respectively. The results of this study were modelled using the biophysical model DairyMod, with strong agreement between observed and modelled data. DairyMod was then used to simulate the MIWUI for 5 differing dairy regions of Tasmania using 40 years of climatic data (19682007) under 3 differing nitrogen management strategies by the 5 irrigation treatments. The modelling indicated that a MIWUI greater than 2tDM/ML can be achieved in all regions. The current study has shown that the opportunity exists for irrigated pastoral systems to better manage an increasingly scarce resource and substantially improve responses to irrigation. © 2009 CSIRO.


Dairy Australia Limited


Publication title

Crop & Pasture Science










Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture (TIA)



Place of publication


Repository Status

  • Restricted

Socio-economic Objectives

Sown pastures (excl. lucerne)

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