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Technology in Australia 1788-1988Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering
Table of Contents

Chapter 3

I Background

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

XII Legislation

XIII Conclusion

XIV List Of Abbreviations

XV Acknowledgements

XVI Plantations-high Productivity Resources



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Soil-plant-water relationships

A very large volume of research has been undertaken into soil-plant-water relationships in Australia over many years, principally from a desire to remedy or avoid the mistakes of the past in irrigation projects, but also to make the best use of the irrigation infrastructure now in place.

Current problems of irrigation relate primarily to unsuitable soil types and the geomorphology of the area being irrigated. Soil structures can be changed rapidly by inappropriate irrigation techniques and poor cultivation practices.

Proper soil management calls for the combined skills of pedologists who classify soils, hydrologists who study the movement of water through soils, engineers who design and construct drainage systems, and agronomists. Current irrigation practices need detailed study, including the method, frequency and duration of irrigation in relation to soil types, and the methods and timing of cultivation in relation to the moisture content of the soil.

The potential for increased use of trickle or drip irrigation has already been mentioned. Other possible new techniques include slit irrigation, where the applied water is confined to a narrow trench where the crop is growing, and sub-surface irrigation using cheap bio-degradable piping which would enable the land to be ploughed following harvesting. Sub-surface irrigation minimizes structural breakdown and weed growth is reduced. There is scope for new ideas in this field.

In the plant growth area, much work has been done, but more research is needed into the effects of irrigation management practices on root development, nutrient uptake and moisture stress. More information is needed on soil biology, the effect of soil microbes on soil structure and the availability of nutrients to plants, and the influence of crop rotation on microbiological populations.

Insect and disease control is often critical to the success of irrigated agriculture, and biological control is expected to have a very significant role in helping to reduce the use of herbicides. Again, a multi-disclipinary approach and new techniques are required to avoid the mistakes of the past.

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© 1988 Print Edition pages 165 - 166, Online Edition 2000
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