From riding a horse with a shovel over his shoulder to having 15 Padman timers and a four-wheeler to get around, the irrigation system on Daryl Lukies’ Katamatite farm has come a long way in 60 years.
The 364ha property has got to where it is today thanks to Mr Lukies transforming it with what was, in 1983, an innovative overhaul.
‘‘When I first saw lasering, that was a huge impact,’’ he said.
‘‘It was going to revolutionise farming, but looking for outlets was an issue.
‘‘Over all the years, John Padman (Padman Stops managing director) has been innovative and always looking ahead to improve.
‘‘I admire him for his help to the irrigation industry.’’
Mr Lukies said he was currently replacing his old outlets to accommodate the extra water he uses to surface-irrigate his property. At times, he irrigates one bay with up to 70-80Ml.
‘‘I’m pulling out four feet (1.22m) ones and putting in 6 to 8 foot (1.83m to 2.44m) outlets. I mostly water at 30Ml plus.
‘‘I have now found that recovery of plants and lucerne with high flows of water, on and off, has improved productivity.’’
The irrigation system, although not completely automated, does allow for greater efficiencies.
‘‘I go out and set them up but I’ve gone to Melbourne and done my business and had water everywhere (in a good way),’’ he said.
As part of the property overhaul, Mr Lukies invented a drain bay (‘‘a cut up the guts’’), which comes in handy when large rainfall events occur, as happened in a year when 101mm of rain fell on a newly-sown lucerne paddock.
‘‘This would normally kill the young plants, but with the new drain bay capable of draining at twice the rate of normal irrigation the lucerne survived,’’ Padman Stops managing director John Padman said.
In addition to the drain bay, Mr Lukies has also constructed a 268Ml dam to store water, a dam he describes as so big ‘‘you could jetski on’’ it.
‘‘We have an underground water licence that we pump water from the storage dam to irrigate our property,’’ he said.
Despite all his innovative farming practices, Mr Lukies has never wanted it to be all about him.
But Mr Padman thinks ‘champion’ is an appropriate title.
‘‘Three of his sons now have their own properties, and he can be proud of his achievements, proving that if you have determination, persistence and good management, not only that you can survive, but you can thrive in the tough field of farming today,’’ Mr Padman said.