Lucerne grower pioneers new process


Running a cut back up his bays has enabled Darryl Lukie to grow lucerne on paddocks that were once deemed to flat.

An old agriculture teacher once told Darryl Lukie that to be a farmer you need to be an eternal optimist and it is something he has never forgotten.
And while the last 10 years of drought  may have tested even the most optimistic of people, Darryl and his wife Jan, and sons Timothy and Travis, have strived to expand their farming operation and change their management practices to improve water efficiency.
The Lukies run a mixed farming operation consisting of dairy, sheep, lucerne and seed cropping on 1130 hectares at Katamatite. They are passionate about agriculture and passionate about using their water efficiently on farm.
There is a great future for flood irrigated agriculture, it just needs to be done right. Darryl said.
There has been a lot of negative press over the years but I firmly believe flood irrigation can compete with spray irrigation for water efficiency when it is done properly.
Darryl currently has 178 hectares of land sown down to lucerne which is watered using fast flow irrigation. He produces over 2000 tonnes annually which is sold into the chaff market and to a small number of dairy farmers.
He irrigates using flows of up to 30 megalitres of wtaer, through Padman Stops.
We pulled out the old 4 foot stops and went to the 6 foot stops and now we are going to the 8 foot stops.
We strategically place plastic with aggregate in a couple of places, to eradicate wash, which works really well. Some farmers worry about wash when using such high flows, but that hasnt been a problem for us.
Darryl has ideal ground for growing lucerne but he does encounter one major problem - a lot of his ground is flat, which can become a nightmare for drainage, if not managed properly.
 To help combat this, he lasers his bays on a grade of 1:1500. He then runs a cut back up to the top of the bay, which finishes at the stop site, on a grade of 1:1400. The bays range in size from 60-100m wide and only one cut is dug each bay.
Darryl has been perfecting this technique for the last 3-4 years and now nearly  all of his stands, save a few very old ones,  have a cut up each bay.
We have improved the way we use the cut over the years through trial and error on the farm, but one thing is for certain, you cant use it unless you have big flows of water going down each bay.
We sowed down a 22 hectare paddock of lucerne this year which shortly after watering received 4 inches of rain. We didnt lose a plant because the cut helped drain the water away. When you spend $10,000 on seed which turns into $14,000 by the time you fertilise and water, you really cant afford to get it wrong. 
All runoff water from the property is recycled back to a 300 Ml turkey nest dam.
 The cost of water is rising and it is a finite resource. We dont waste a single drop of water and I see a great future for flood irrigation, contrary to what some people might say.
You just have to get it right and the production always follows.


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