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Accounting for cotton water use and productivity: A tool to estimate on-farm water use efficiencies

Tennakoon, S., Johnston, S. and Milroy, S.ORCID: 0000-0002-3889-7058 (2003) Accounting for cotton water use and productivity: A tool to estimate on-farm water use efficiencies. In: 11th Australian Agronomy Conference: Solutions for a better environment, 2 - 6 February 2003, Geelong, Victoria



Cotton farmers need strategies and tools to assist in monitoring water use with a view to improving efficiency. Simple water accounting can be used for analysing the use, loss and productivity of water on a whole farm basis. This is important for assessing the impact of farm and field level management on the water use, identifying areas of potential water savings. For this, a standard method for measuring, recording and analysing water use is necessary to make a valid comparison of water use efficiencies between fields, properties and seasons.

A user-friendly software tool was developed to assist cotton growers to record, analyse and assess the performance of individual fields and whole farm water use efficiency using readily collected on-farm data. Both production and quantitative water use efficiencies are considered, including the overall irrigation water losses within the farm. Irrigation efficiency is calculated as the proportion of water input to the farm used by the crop as evapotranspiration (ET). Crop water use efficiency is calculated as the efficiency with which water used as ET is converted to lint yield. Crop water use is estimated using observed soil moisture data and simulated daily ET values. This system enables irrigators to identify the fate of water within the farm, identifying points of loss and potential areas for improvement. The terminology and framework presented here have been developed for general use on a typical Australian cotton farm. The beta version of the tool is currently being evaluated under field conditions by Cotton CRC extension personnel in Queensland. The primary limitation to the tool’s use is the availability of appropriate data. The most common limitations are information on water use from on-farm storages and water harvesting. Where more than one field is irrigated at a time, the proportion of water going to each crop is also generally unknown. The software does not account for losses from farm storages outside the growing season, which can be considerable. This is an area for future development.

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