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Water efficiency measures key to ‘Morella’ success at Boggabilla

Murray–Darling Basin Authority Chair Sir Angus Houston kicked off his latest listening tour today with a visit to ‘Morella’ at Boggabilla. The irrigated cotton and dryland farming operation is driving efficiencies by closely measuring soil moisture, using lateral move irrigation systems and by developing an intimate knowledge of soil health.
Published: 15 March 2022

The opportunity to listen to the Boggabilla, Goondiwindi, Dirranbandi and St George communities about local water issues important to them is the focus of a series of onsite visits this week with Murray–Darling Basin Authority (MDBA) Chair, Sir Angus Houston.  

Sir Angus and MDBA acting Chief Executive Andrew Reynolds are leading the 4-day listening tour that kicked off in Boggabilla today.

Photo of four men standing in a field of cotton. Names provided in image caption below.
Sam Coulton (Morella Ag), Sir Angus Houston, Andrew Reynolds (acting MDBA Chief Executive) and Michael Murray (Cotton Australia general manager) at bumper cotton crop at Morella, Boggabilla today. 

"This is my seventh listening tour since taking on the role of chair where I have the opportunity to meet in person with a wide range of stakeholders who have varied interest in and connections to water in the Murray–Darling Basin,” Sir Angus said. 

First stop on the tour was a visit to ‘Morella’ at Boggabilla with MDBA Basin Community Committee member Sam Coulton who showcased their irrigated cotton and dryland farming operation.  

Sam explained Morella was the first irrigated property in the district from 1978. His grandfather, Keith Coulton, was instrumental in having Pindari Dam’s capacity increased to 317,000 megalitres (ML) to provide greater water security in the Border Rivers catchment.  

“We grow mostly cotton under irrigation and have some winter dryland crops,” Sam said.  

“Water efficiency has been really important to us and the main measures we’ve got in place at Morella are neutron probes in every paddock that measure the soil moisture so we can water on time. 

“We also use an overhead lateral mover to water more efficiently than flood irrigation.  

“Soil health has also been a key component, with the right moisture levels important to save the organic matter. It’s taken 20 to 25 years to get that part right.” 

Sam said the local irrigators and industry leaders who met with the listening tour appreciated the chance to discuss their views and share some of the history of water reform in the Border Rivers.  

“Having this tour start here in Boggabilla was very welcome and we really enjoyed the visit.”  

The tour will see representatives from the MDBA, Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder, federal Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment, and Queensland Department of Natural Resources, Mines and Energy visit various sites from Boggabilla in the far north of New South Wales to Goondiwindi, Dirranbandi and St George in southern and south-west Queensland.  

“It is the first time I have been in this part of the Basin as Authority Chair as sadly the tour had to be rescheduled from August last year due to COVID-19,” Sir Angus said. 

“Recent flooding was potentially going to disrupt or postpone this tour again. We have managed some workarounds, but unfortunately, we won’t get to all the sites we had planned.  

“We will get out on what might be soggy ground to see and hear from farmers, local government, industry and community representatives and First Nations peoples about what matters most to them when it comes to water management and water security.”

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