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Week #3: Tatura Research Center (DEDJTR)

Week #3: DEDJTR Tatura

Day #1:  I arrived early in the morning.  The first day was mostly spent meeting all the staff of the research facility, and the Murray-Dairy industry research group.  This was one of my favorite places throughout the whole trip.  All the employees were very, very friendly and easy going.  I answered all the usual questions about being American and my opinions on Trump, and then settled into my desk for the week.  The last couple hours of the day were spent learning about, and then using, an online, open-source farm mapping software.

Day #2:  Woke up bright and early for the day I planned on spending with Harriet from Murray-Dairy.  She picked me up somewhere around 7am in the morning, and we then drove three and a half hours to a dairy farm that had some research paddocks.  They also used the Rubicon pipe and riser flood irrigation equipment and software.  We were there to measure the growth rates of about 10-12 paddocks.  We used a cool device that was attached to the front of a golf cart so that when we drove through the paddocks it measured density, height of grass, and possible weight.  The device wasn’t built for ryegrass and clover paddocks though, so with these we had to cut samples each time we took a measurement so we could set a benchmark to work with when the data was analyzed.

Day #3:  On day three I toured the horticulture part of the research center.  I first saw the stone fruit orchards, where they were investigating varied irrigation rates on 3 different propagation systems.  One of which, called the Tatura Open trellis, I had seen used in vineyards across American and Australia before.  It was nice to see where the concept had originated sometime in the 1970’s.  After the stone fruit orchard, I went and saw the pear research plot, where I helped measure shoot growth after the plants were pruned using a wide range of techniques.  I then helped sort and measure those cut shoots for fiber and nutrient content.

Day #4:  Day four was spent organizing data from the research stations weather prediction service.  I had to plot the predicted evapotranspiration and rainfall rates against the actual measurements, in order to see how effective they were.  The evapotranspiration predictions were within an acceptable range, but the predicted rainfall was nowhere near the mark.  I wasn’t surprised knowing how accurate the weathermen usually are.  This was one of the things that I found to be most interesting.  Along with on farm automation, rainfall and transpiration rate prediction are likely to be the future of farming technology for the next 10-15 years, and it’s all happening in Australia.

Day #5:  The last day was the most relaxed.  I spent it with the research station hydrologist, who took me to a farm that fully used both Rubicon flood irrigation systems (flood gate and channel, and pipe and riser).  The whole operation was huge, and I wish I’d had more time to learn about how the whole system was managed.  One of the themes I noticed from the trip, is that the farmers who invested in the Rubicon technology had considerable extra time to focus on other dairy farm related activities, instead of spending all 24 hours of the day focused on irrigating.

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