Oxygation study aims to lift productivity
Making modern irrigation systems even more productive is one of the aims of a scholarship funded by the National Program for Sustainable Irrigation.
Central Queensland University student Mick Law has just completed a Bachelor of Environmental Science and is moving on to a Masters in Applied Science. He successfully applied for the scholarship which has enabled him during the summer break to build on investigations of oxygation as a means of generating healthier interactions between water, soil and plant physiology.
The university’s Centre for Plant and Water Science is a world leader in research into oxygation, which is basically about adding air through sub-surface irrigation systems to improve aeration in the soil structure that serves the root zones of crops. Research interests include novel oxygation systems and expanding knowledge of the technique to a wider range of crops and production environments.
“While advances are constantly being made there is already the capacity for commercial producers to install oxygation equipment and begin improving soil conditions that lead to better water uptake and possibly improvements in yield and quality,” Mick Law said.
“My focus has been on two crops that have not previously adopted oxygation on any scale, namely pineapples and figs, and we are carrying out research on two contrasting soil types namely vertisols (with their high content of expansive clay) and sandy soils.”
The work involves measurement and compilation of a long list of data, ranging from soil water characteristics to transpiration and other aspects of plant function under different conditions. An outcome of expanded knowledge is expected to be greater confidence for those producers using spray methods of irrigation to reduce evaporative loss by switching to a sub-surface system and using oxygation as a tool to ensure aeration is maintained under drip.
Mick Law, a mature age student, said that without the National Program for Sustainble Irrigation scholarship he would not have been able to provide the time to intensify the work.
“The scholarship program has been an ideal way to provide students with additional experience,” he said.
National Program for Sustainable Irrigation program manager Guy Roth says the short period projects can produce valuable information for producers in irrigated agriculture.
“Another important outcome is the increased familiarity of students with science and the industry, which hopefully will encourage interest in pursuing careers in irrigation research,” he said.
Each year the National Program for Sustainable Irrigation provides four scholarships, each valued at $6,000, to students completing the senior year of their university studies.