VG04010 Maximising returns from water

This report is one in a series on vegetable industry water use at state and national levels, and has been funded by Horticulture Australia Ltd (HAL) and AUSVEG.

This series outlines how water is used in the major vegetable production regions in Australia, and details the current irrigation practices, water use efficiencies and economics of the vegetable-growing industries in each state.

The vegetable sector is the largest segment of the horticultural industry in Australia.

The most recent ABS survey (2000/01) revealed the vegetable industry had a gross value of around $ 2.1 billion, derived from some 2.9 million tonnes of produce.

Export value of Australian fresh and processed vegetable products in 2004/05 was in excess of $192 million. The major crop types are potatoes (1.2 million tonnes from 36,800 ha), tomatoes (414,000 tonnes from 8,300 ha), carrots (283,000 tonnes from 7,000 ha) and onions (247,000 tonnes from 5,300 ha).

This series of reports describes how water is used in the major vegetable production regions in Australia.

The reports detail the investment made in technology to ensure maximum output and product quality from every ML used in vegetable production and processing.

The rate of improvement in irrigation technologies since the mid 1990’s has been significant, and has come at a time of increased publicly funded incentive programs aimed at improving irrigation efficiency on farm.

Authors :

Murat Top

Bill Ashcroft

Maximising returns from water in the Australian vegetable industry: Victoria
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Key Findings :

  • The productivity increases achieved by the vegetable industry can be largely attributed to increased use of water-efficient delivery systems such as drip irrigation, increased use of recycling on farm, wide scale adoption of irrigation scheduling and soil moisture monitoring and a tendency towards whole farm planning and soil mapping.

    Although more difficult to measure, some part of the increase in product value and quality is also likely to be the direct result of improved irrigation practices.

  • Most vegetable crops require irrigation for all or most of their growing season.

    Over 31,000 hectares of the major vegetable crops are grown under irrigation within the Southern Rural, Goulburn Murray and Wimmera/Mallee & Sunraysia irrigation districts of Victoria.

    Water is delivered through four major authorities, and costs for vegetable production vary from less than $3 per ML from unregulated waterways, to more than $250 per ML from reticulated domestic supplies.

  • Victorian vegetable crops achieve an estimated 4 to 8 t/ML of water applied (for cauliflowers and fresh tomatoes respectively), and a gross value ranging from $1894 to $8213 (for processing tomatoes and capsicums respectively).

  • Recent droughts have focussed attention on the value of water in Victoria as it has elsewhere in Australia.
    While the availability of high quality water for irrigation of vegetable crops has generally not been threatened, costs are rising along with competing demands for domestic, industrial and environmental purposes.

  • Adoption of more efficient irrigation systems (such as drip) is increasing, along with the use of irrigation scheduling programs.
    Water trading has also been introduced, facilitating its use on higher value crops such as vegetables.

  • The Victorian Government has been active in promoting water reform, with a number of policy instruments and initiatives to encourage more efficient practices and facilitate environmental outcomes.


VG04010  Maximising returns from water – Australia pt1  (2006)

VG04010  Maximising returns from water – Australia pt2  (2006)

VG04015  Benchmarking vegetable water use  (2006)

VG08020  Optimising water & nutrient use  (2010) 

Acknowledgements :

This project has been facilitated by the Victorian State Government and Horticulture Australia Limited (HAL)
in partnership with AUSVEG through the National Vegetable Research and Development Levy.

The Australian Government provides matched funding for all HAL’s R&D activities.

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