A new research initiative aimed at expanding the use of water recycling for irrigating South Australia’s horticultural industry has been launched by the Australian Water Recycling Centre of Excellence (AWRCE).

Led by the South Australian Research and Development Institute (SARDI) and co-funded by the Goyder Institute for Water Research, the project is collaborating with the local viticulture industry and the University of Adelaide, to demonstrate the economic and environmental value of water recycling to Australia’s agri-food industry.

AWRCE’s CEO, Mark O’Donohue, said that security of water supply is an ongoing concern for producers of horticulture crops.

“Recycled water can provide a secure, climate resilient water supply for many agricultural areas of Australia. This project will contribute to a growing body of knowledge about how to incorporate the use of recycled water into a variety of irrigation regimes,” said Dr O’Donohue.

Project investigator, Tim Pitt from SARDI, says “The project involves crops being watered under very precise irrigation systems, and looks at how to mitigate the salt content of recycled water by diluting it with fresh rainwater. We will be applying recycled water to vineyards in the McLaren Vale and to almond orchards on the Northern Adelaide Plains.”

The trials at a McLaren Vale vineyard owned by Treasury Wine Estates will test whether re-directing rainfall, from raised soil mounds  built between the vines, to soil directly under vines irrigated with recycled water reduces the build-up of salt. Trials on the almond orchards will use mixtures of recycled water and freshwater to identify the most salt sensitive growth stages of almonds.

“We will also assess how the changing concentrations of salt, in the various soils being assessed, affect plant response in terms of vigour, yield and crop quality,” said Mr Pitt.