The development of a catchment scale irrigation systems model for sugarcane.
Moult, Nicholas Greig.
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The implementation of the National Water Act (1998) requires significant changes in the institutional arrangements for water management and, to cater for human and environmental needs, as well as addressing historical inequities, water allocations to irrigated agriculture are likely to be affected. As a result, farmers are facing increasing pressure to use water more effectively, to justify existing water requirements and to budget and plan with growing uncertainty regarding water availability. Therefore, a tool to manage and assess catchment water supply and demand interactions and the associated impacts on the profitability of irrigated sugarcane would be of great value. Although there have been several independent model developments in the fields of water management and sugarcane growth, none provide the required management information in an integrated manner. However, these models provide the foundation for the development of the required modelling tool. An irrigation model for sugarcane, ACRUCane, was developed and incorporated into the ACRU2000 modelling system. The water budget simulated by ACRUCane is linked to a surrounding catchment, the hydrology of which is simulated by the ACRU model. In doing so, a tool has been developed that has the capacity to: • model the soil water balance at a field scale for irrigated areas and at a catchment scale for non-irrigated areas, • link an accurate estimation of crop water requirement for an irrigated area with the availability ofwater at a catchment scale, • explicitly account for the impact of the performance of different irrigation systems on the hydrology and, ultimately, on the sugarcane yield of an irrigated area, • assess the impact of different supply constraints on sugarcane yield, and • estimate both sugarcane and sucrose yield. Extensive verification of the model has been undertaken using data from an irrigation trial at La Mercy, South Africa and two separate trials conducted in the Lowveld of Zimbabwe, with the primary objective of the verification studies being to assess the model's ability to account for different scheduling strategies on sugarcane and sucrose yield. The results obtained show that the model accurately captured the relative differences in yield associated with different irrigation treatments and can thus be used evaluate the impact of different scheduling strategies. A case study was conducted where the feasibility of several hypothetical irrigation scenarios were compared. Different scenarios were created by varying application uniformity, scheduling strategies and system type. This case study illustrated how ACRUCane can be used to provide reliable decision support information to irrigators.