||Technology in Australia 1788-1988
Table of Contents
II Early European Settlements
III Assessment Of Available Water Resources
IV Water Supplies For Goldmining Development
V Irrigation Development
i Channels, weirs and barrages
ii Measuring farm supplies - the Dethridge wheel
iii Early pumping schemes
iv Irrigation techniques
v Drainage of irrigated land
vi Recharge of aquifer
vii Soil-plant-water relationships
viii Carry-over storages and security of supply
VI Farm And Stock Water Supplies
VII Urban Water Supplies
VIII Wastewater Management And Treatment
IX Water Quality Management
X Limnological And Water Quality Research
XI New Techniques In Water Resource Planning And Management
XIV List Of Abbreviations
XVI Plantations-high Productivity Resources
Irrigation techniquesMethods of irrigation have been changed and extended progressively with new research and new technology. The earliest method used in Australia last century for pastures and crops was probably simple uncontrolled flooding from an earthen head ditch on the highest ground. This was followed by the construction of check banks at 10 or 20 m intervals at right angles to the contour and, in the next phase, grading of land between the banks to fill hollows and remove high spots. The limited scope of early earth-moving equipment reduced the effectiveness of this process, though this was improved by the construction of cross banks for high value crops to create a series of basins. As far back as 1911, farmers were encouraged to adopt such arrangements through the provision of specialised contour surveys and layout plans by the State water authorities.
In the 1960s, land graders with a long wheel base (up to 20 m) were introduced, and they facilitated the movement of large volumes of earth for improving the distribution of water, increasing production and reducing drainage and seepage problems. These machines were, however, costly to use and were not widely employed.
Further major developments occurred in 1976, firstly with the introduction of agricultural lasers, forming part of a control system for land grading and earth-moving machinery. The second major advance was the Australian development of computer programs for land forming. These two new tools led to reduced cost of land preparation and rapid improvement in farm layout and productivity. New earth-moving equipment developed in Australia for these tasks is now being exported successfully.
The earliest method of watering orchards and vineyards was by furrow irrigation, dating from 1887 at Mildura. The first advances came in the 1930s, with the use of earthenware pipelines in place of earthen or concrete-lined ditches. From about 1960, increasing use was made of other pipe materials, including asbestos-cement and PVC, which were cheaper and easier to handle. Many local improvements were made to imported designs for pipes and control structures, leading to the development of significant industries in the Sunraysia area and elsewhere.
Sprinkler and trickle irrigation systems have, since the early 1960s, been increasingly used as a replacement for furrow irrigation in the watering of orchards and vineyards. Sprinkler irrigation has followed closely the practice in the USA and much of the equipment used in Australia is imported.
Trickle irrigation is a comparatively new innovation, dating from about 1965. Parallel developments took place in Australia and Israel, the local research being initiated by the 1968 drought and the perceived need for a watering system for orchards which would make the best use of limited water supplies. Several Australian inventions have emerged in this field, including micro-filters, improved drippers for trickle irrigation, and micro-sprinklers as alternatives to tricklers. These products are now exported to several countries, including the USA.
© 1988 Print Edition pages 162 - 164, Online Edition 2000
Published by Australian Science and Technology Heritage Centre, using the Web Academic Resource Publisher