Nationally, the number of agricultural businesses irrigating decreased 18% to 22,700. New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia all fell by 21%, driven largely by decreases in areas for cropping particularly for rice, wheat, sorghum and canola. Reduced water allocations also contributed to the decline.
Pasture, cereal and other crops for grazing accounted for the largest area of crops irrigated during the 2015-16 period with 575,700 hectares, down 10% from the previous year. This decrease was primarily driven by a large fall in Victoria, down 19% to 346,500 hectares.
Both the area irrigated and volume of water applied increased noticeably for cotton in 2015-16. Nationally the area irrigated increased from 160,500 hectares to 211,300 hectares (up 32%) and volume of water applied increased 20% from 1.2 million to 1.4 million megalitres. New South Wales continues to be main contributing state, reporting large increases due to farmers switching from growing rice to cotton in 2015-16.
Other increases in volumes applied were sugar cane (up 17%) and fruit and nuts (up 38%). These increases were offset by decreases in volume applied for pastures and cereals for grazing or fed off (down 23%), other cereal crops (down 15%) and rice (down 63%).
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