Preliminary VegNET survey results

A key milestone requirement of the National Vegetable Extension Network project (aka the VegNET project) is to conduct an annual survey with vegetable growers.

Growers have generously given up their time over the last three months to participate,  providing valuable insight into on-farm practices, educational background, opinions on risks to farm sustainability, and barriers to adopting on-farm practice change. Here is a sneak peak of the preliminary survey results…

Twenty-nine (29) growers have completed the survey to date; almost all of these were completed face-to-face with the grower, on-farm.  One (1) survey was conducted over the phone, two (2) have been completed online. The combined area of respondents farm area is 6,360 hectares.

graph_ageThe majority of growers identified as being male (82%) and between 41-50 years of age (41%).  Twenty percent identified as being between the ages of 31-40 years of age, 20% identified as being 51 years or older, and 17% identified as being 30 years of age or under.

More than 50% of growers indicated that their highest level of education was a Trade or Technical/Vocational training (such as a Certificate or Diploma); almost 45%  indicated completion of Year 12, with 15% of these indicating that they had additionally attained higher tertiary qualifications (a Bachelor degree or Masters).

FARMING EXPERIENCE, KNOWLEDGE & SKILLS: More than two thirds of growers surveyed demonstrated more than 20 years of farming experience.  It will come as no surprise that the majority of growers indicated that they gain their knowledge and skills through learning by doing.  Other sources of knowledge and skills identified were:

  • other farmers (usually family members), and
  • agricultural extension activities (non-commercial extension such as workshops and field days).

Surprisingly, only a fifth of respondents indicated using commercial on-farm adviser services.

ON-FARM PRACTICES: Growers were asked to select as many of the following on-farm practices that they implement on farm:

  • seasonal crop rotation
  • regular soil and leaf testing for nutrition budgeting
  • cover cropping
  • inter-row cover management
  • manual calibration of spray equipment
  • use of composts and other soil amendments, and
  • participate in field days.

The responses are extremely positive with the majority of growers implementing multiple practices.

graph_practices

In terms of irrigation practices, 50% of growers surveyed use trickle tape/drip irrigation with a further 25% using micro-sprinklers; only one respondent selected surface or furrow irrigation as their main irrigation type.

graph_irrigation

When asked to score the efficiency of their irrigation system and practices on a scale of 1-5 (1 = Inefficient, 5 = Very Efficient), the total average score was 4.  Four growers scored their irrigation as a 2 or less, citing high electricity use and prices, labour intensity, and age of the irrigation infrastructure as the main reasons for the low score.

More than half of the respondents scored their irrigation system and practices as a 5, citing factors such as reduced water losses due to evaporation or wind, reduced volumes of water use, and ease of operation as reasons for a high score.  Here are some responses:

“System uses a quarter of the amount of water. It delivers the water direct to the root zone. After the initial set-up, its easy to operate. Also, not losing water in windy weather, and can irrigate everything in one day.”

“Water is placed exactly where it is needed. The inter-row is not watered which is good because you don’t want the water to go to the inter-row. No losses from wind or evaporation.”

Nearly 40% of growers surveyed indicated that they intended to undertake major infrastructure changes to their irrigation system in the next 12 months.  The types of changes that growers intend to make include:

  • automated and remote management of irrigation system (by smart phone)
  • monitoring devices such as Enviroscan
  • transition to solar power
  • filters on pumps to reduce blockages
  • install trickle/drip, and
  • variable speed bore pumps.

BARRIERS TO ADOPTION:  A strong majority of growers advised that financial constraints were a significant  barrier preventing or slowing implementation of changes to current practices/infrastructure.

graph_constraints

Other barriers cited were:

  • farm layout and topography
  • not knowing what improvements could be made
  • information overload
  • technology not available yet
  • difficulty finding the right equipment to do the job properly.

RESEARCH & DEVELOPMENT TOPICS:  Growers were asked to identify R&D topics that they were most interested in receiving further information on.  The most popular topics were Pest and Disease, Soil Health, Biosecurity and Marketing/Supply Chain.

graph_R&D

RISKS TO SUSTAINABILITY: Factors identified by growers as being a risk that could impact on farming as a whole, in the future, include:

  • electricity,  water and fuel prices – constantly on the increase and cost prohibitive
  • administrative burden – too much paperwork
  • labour issues – availability, managing staff, training requirements, visa limitations
  • a changed rural landscape and other impacts of mono-cultures – Avocados, Macadamias – pest/disease issues, for example
  • climate change, drought, catastrophic weather events
  • access to water, and possible water restrictions for environmental flows
  • mining – specifically Adani and Blue Energy Gas
  • water quality, salinity
  • low commodity prices, and increasingly slim profit margins.

Finally, 100% of respondents indicated that they would like to go in the draw to win a $300 gift voucher to spend at Eric Lye Menswear, as a token of thanks from BFVG for participating in the survey.  It’s not too late to do the survey and go into the draw! 

Survey responses are being collected until mid-October – here’s the link.

Source and Acknowledgements:  Written by Michelle Haase, VegNET Industry Development Officer, Bundaberg Fruit &  Vegetable Growers (BFVG).  VegNET is funded by Hort Innovation with Vegetable grower levies and funding from the Australian Government. 

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Drones still ‘right up there’ for Future Farming Focus

If there is one topic that the Wide Bay-Burnett VegNET project has focused on heavily this year,  it’s future farming.  Aka, robots, drones and sensors.  Here’s a round-up of future farming events, projects, videos and resources for growers……

Robots, Drones & Sensors; Future Farming Masterclasses – In April this year, Bundaberg Fruit & Vegetable Growers (BFVG) ran a series of masterclasses at Agrotrend on future farming technology.  Masterclasses featured presentations by mechatronic engineers, agronomists and entrepreneurs; you can catch up on these classes from the comfort of your home office.  Here are the links to each masterclass:

RIPPA & Drone Field day – In June, we ran a field day to hone in on drone and robot technology, and had the opportunity to see the RIPPA in action, in the field.  The RIPPA, an aptly named Robot for Intelligent Perception and Precision Application, has been developed specifically for vegetable production by the University of Sydney.  To see the RIPPA in action, check out this short video.

Local agronomist, Renee Liddle, and Drone Pilot, Josh Caccioppola, stole the show however, with their DJI Matrice 100 demonstration and presentation.  Renee and Josh walked growers through how their drone captures images of a paddock, and how they view and interpret the images.  You can download a PDF of their presentation here.

Using drones to save on pesticide losses – Although use of drones for weed spraying was not discussed at the RIPPA field day, we recently came across this video that has been developed by the Queensland Government.  To see how canegrowers in Far North Queensland are using drones to spot spray weeds…

Capture

Future Focus – Robotics and Intelligent Systems in Australian Vegetable Production Systems (webinar recording) – If you missed being involved in this webinar, never fear! All VegNET webinars are recorded for you to catch up on at a time that suits you.  You can access a copy of the individual presentation slides below, or watch the full webinar recording HERE:

Veg Automation project – Queensland University of Technology (QUT) and the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (DAF) are developing sensor technology and systems for automated, rapid assessment of vegetable in-field quantity and quality. For an update on this Vegetable Levy funded project, download the latest Veg automation news.

Acknowledgements: Post written by Michelle Haase – Vegetable Industry Development Officer (VegNET) with Bundaberg Fruit & Vegetable Growers – www.bfvg.com.au

The webinar session was facilitated by Carl Larsen from RMCG and delivered by the National Vegetable Extension Network (VegNET). 

The video on Using Drones to save on pesticide costs and loss was developed by the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, funded by the Queensland Government’s Reef Water Quality Program and the Australian Government’s Reef Trust program. 

Funding for the VegNET National Vegetable Extension Network program is from Hort Innovation with vegetable grower levies and funding by the Australian Government.

 

Biofumigant Cover Crops at Work

The use of specialised cover crops which are grown, mulched and incorporated into the soil prior to cropping is known as ‘biofumigation’.

The fumigation effect is caused by plant compounds called cyanogenic glucosides or glucosinolates.  These are found in Brassica species such as cabbages, radish and cauliflowers;  it’s the odour that you smell as you drive through the Lockyer Valley!

When these are broken down, these naturally occurring compounds from the biofumigant plants are effective in suppressing soil-borne pests, diseases and weeds.  They can be particularly effective in getting the jump on nematodes.  Other benefits of using biofumigant cover crops is the addition of rich organic matter and a consequential improvement of soil structure and fertility.

There are over 200 glucosinolates commonly found in Brassica species and work is currently underway in the region to identify more accurately, which species are most effective for specific pests and diseases.  The Department of Agriculture and Fisheries have recently established a trial of different biofumigant crop types at the Research Facility in Bundaberg, and are also doing an on-farm demonstration  with some local growers.  They have developed a poster on their trial findings to date – download here.

For further reading on the benefits of incorporating a biofumigant cover crop into your vegetable crop rotation, download this factsheet which has been developed through the Soil Wealth Program.

Sources:

  1. Biofumigation Fact Sheet – Soil Wealth and Integrated Crop Protection (VG16078) – http://www.soilwealth.com.au
  2. Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, 2018.

Acknowledgements: 

Post written by Michelle Haase – Vegetable Industry Development Officer (VegNET) with Bundaberg Fruit & Vegetable Growers – www.bfvg.com.au. Funding for the VegNET National Vegetable Extension Network program is from Hort Innovation with vegetable grower levies and funding by the Australian Government.

TPP Surveillance Update

Tomato Potato Psyllidd (TPP) is an exotic pest.  Although only tiny at 3mm in length, this sap-sucking insect is considered a major biosecurity threat for vegetable growers.

An adult TPP resembles a miniature cicada or a winged aphid.  It has a dark, brownish coloured body with white or sometimes yellow markings, and transparent wings which are held vertically over its body.  When disturbed, the adult TPP gives a characteristic wiggle of the abdomen and then jumps vertically or takes flight.

TPP has a wide host range – tomatoes, potatoes, capsicums, chillies, eggplants, tamarillos and sweetpotatos – and is easily spread via plant and equipment, plant materials, by wind and/or by its own means (flight!).  It therefore has all the hallmarks of pest potential to cause significant vegetable losses.

Signs and symptoms of a TPP infestation include;

  • adult psyllids jumping from foliage when disturbed
  • severe wilting of plants caused by psyllids feeding
  • stunting and yellowing of growth tips, and/or yellowing of leaf margins
  • cupping or upward curling of leaves
  • small white sugar-like granules coating leaves and stems, attracting ants and sometimes the growth of sooty mould.

Early season detection and management is critical to minimise psyllid reproduction and spread. Both commercial vegetable growers and backyard gardeners are urged to check for signs of TPP.  Plant Health Australia, the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, and Agriculture Victoria have an excellent range of images of TPP in the various stages of development online, to assist in accurate identification.

TPP was detected in Western Australia last year, leading to a significant expansion of TPP surveillance by each State government throughout the country.  The TPP Surveillance Overview Program supported this surveillance effort through the provision of more than 3,000 sticky traps to interested industry stakeholders to monitor for TPP.

Between April 2017 and 2018 over 1,100 traps have been returned to TIA and assessed. No TPP were detected.

Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture (TIA), 30 April 2018

Surveillance is an extremely important aspect of TPP monitoring – all data collected from these traps is used to support each state in Area Freedom (AF) certificates as proof of TPP absence. AF certificates and evidence of TPP surveillance are needed to maintain access to trade markets.

The TPP Surveillance Overview Program is operated by the Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture (TIA) with funding by Hort Innovation.  The TPP surveillance program has been extended for a further two months until a national approach to TPP surveillance is developed.

Bundaberg Fruit & Vegetables Growers can supply growers with a monitoring kit; TIA will continue to assess returned sticky traps until the end of July. For a sticky trap monitoring kit to be sent to you, contact BFVG’s VegNET Officer Michelle Haase.  To stay up to date with the TPP Surveillance Program, check out the UTAS website – here – or email the Project Coordinator Raylea Rowbottom.

Reporting of TPP is mandatory and can be done by contacting Biosecurity Queensland on 132 523 or the 24 hour emergency pest hotline – 1800 084 881.

Source & Acknowledgements:  Post written by Michelle Haase – Vegetable Industry Development Officer (VegNET) with Bundaberg Fruit & Vegetable Growers – www.bfvg.com.au. Funding for the VegNET National Vegetable Extension Network program is from Hort Innovation with vegetable grower levies and funding by the Australian Government.

Information supplied by Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture – utas.edu.au/tia.  Images courtesy of Department of Agriculture and Food, Western Australia.

 

 

Robots Drones & Sensors Popular at Agrotrend

The Robots Drones & Sensors; Future Farming Masterclasses at the BFVG Agri-Hub were a real hit at Agrotrend this year.  If you missed it, never mind because we recorded each presentation and have posted these on our website – WATCH NOW!

Throughout the two days of Agrotrend, scientists, researchers and innovative ag-business people presented and demonstrated robotic, drone and sensor technology applications for farming systems. More than 1,500 people visited the hub, with 424 people actually participating in a masterclass. Masterclasses were delivered every hour, and included demonstrations of a SwarmBot robot and “Harvey” a Robotic Capsicum Harvester.  Other presentations and exhibits included RapidAIM sensors, drones for use in vertebrate pest management and weed control, precision-ag smartphone hacks, and a pop-up MakerSpace.

The event was an initiative of Bundaberg Fruit and Vegetable Growers’ (BFVG) VegNET project and CQUniversity, funded by the Queensland Government’s Engaging Science program. It involved participation from the CSIRO, the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (DAF), Community Lifestyle Systems (CLS), LESS Industries, Aerobugs Pty Ltd, and the Queensland University of Technology (QUT).

 

 

Students studying at CQUniversity volunteered their time at Robots Drones & Sensors to assist BFVG in coordinating the event.  They conducted important evaluation of the masterclasses, interviewing fifty two (52) people throughout the two days.

The evaluation identified that 27% of participants were growers of a horticulture commodity, and that an additional 15% of participants were a primary producer from an other industry (cane, beef, cropping, for example).  The results of the survey further identified that while 50% of participants interviewed did not identify as a primary producer, more than half of those worked in agriculture.

The evaluation additionally aimed to capture data about the current use of technology on-farm and if the information in the masterclasses could be effective in encouraging further uptake of available technology.  This question was directed only at respondents that identified as a ‘grower’ and/or a ‘primary producer’.  The results of this were as follows;

  • More than 10% percent stated that they were already using the technology on-farm.
  • Nearly a quarter said that they were still uncertain about the use of the technology on farm.
  • More than 50% indicated that as a result of the masterclasses, they would consider investigating the use of the technology on their own farms.

graph

Eighty seven (87) percent of respondents scored the event as being “highly” and “very” interesting, informative and enjoyable.

All masterclasses were filmed and are available on the BFVG website – TAKE ME THERE! For further information about Robots Drones & Sensors or to be advised when the videos are posted online, email BFVG.

Source & Acknowledgements:  Post written by Michelle Haase – Vegetable Industry Development Officer (VegNET) with Bundaberg Fruit & Vegetable Growers – www.bfvg.com.au. Funding for the VegNET National Vegetable Extension Network program is from Hort Innovation with vegetable grower levies and funding by the Australian Government.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Technology Exhibits in BFVG Agri-Hub at Agrotrend

We are pleased to be showcasing technology for use in agriculture in the BFVG Agri-Hub at Agrotrend next week, as a part of our Robots Drones & Sensors; Future Farming Masterclasses. Exhibitors in the BFVG Agri-Hub will be on-hand throughout the entire two-days of Agrotrend, to talk to growers, croppers, and graziers about robotic, drone and sensor technology application in agriculture.

The Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (DAF) will be one of the main exhibits in the BFVG Agri-Hub. They will be on hand to tell growers all about precision agriculture and how it can help their vegetable enterprise. DAF Development Horticulturist Celia van Sprang said the focus would be on how to best adopt precision ag technologies to suit individual needs.

“We can give advice on what equipment options are available and the experiences early adopters have had.”

Celia van Sprang

DAF will additionally will have on display a range of telemetry loggers that monitor cool chain conditions, collecting continuous data, for fruit and vegetables in domestic supply chains. They will demonstrate a live web-based link to remote air temperature monitoring devices that are enabled to allow real time monitoring of export shipments of citrus to Asian ports.

Community Lifestyle Solutions (CLS) with a “Pop Up Makerspace” is another major exhibitor in the BFVG Agri-Hub.  The Makerspace will demonstrate gadgets such as 3D printers and mechatronic-type technology. Community Lifestyle Support (CLS), a not-for-profit organisation providing a wide range of health and community services to people living throughout the Central Queensland region.  CLS secured funding through the Advance Queensland’s Knowledge Transfer Partnership Program to develop a technology enabling people with severe and complex physical impairments to control electronic devices. CLS have worked with primary producers that have physical impairments to assist them is staying on-farm.

Damien Tracey, the Chief Executive Officer of CLS, will also be presenting a Future Farming Masterclass at Agrotrend, on the Maker Movement.  He will be highlighting potential for agrarians, technologists and makers to collaboratively drive improvements in farming technologies and practices.

Other exhibits in the BFVG Agri-Hub include BFVG’s VegNET project, Aerobugs, LESS Industries, CQUniversity, CSIRO and the Queensland University of Technology (QUT). The exhibits in the BFVG Agri-hub will compliment the series of Robots Drones & Sensor; Future Farming Masterclasses which will be held every hour, over the two-days at Agrotrend.  The Future Farming Masterclass itinerary is available on the Agrotrend website – www.agrotrend.com.au.

The BFVG Agri-Hub is an initiative of the Bundaberg Fruit & Vegetable Growers (BFVG) made possible with funding from the Queensland Government from the Engaging Science program.  BFVG are coordinating the project in partnership with CQUniversity, to bring robotic, drone and sensor experts from throughout the country together to extend information to primary producers.  BFVG is launching the Robots Drones & Sensors event with an Industry Breakfast for primary producers and industry stakeholders.

RSVP for the Industry Breakfast is essential and can be done online or by contacting the BFVG office on 07 4153 3007.  RSVP’s are not necessary to participate in a masterclass.

Source & Acknowledgements:  Post written by Michelle Haase – Vegetable Industry Development Officer (VegNET) with Bundaberg Fruit & Vegetable Growers – www.bfvg.com.au. Funding for the VegNET National Vegetable Extension Network program is from Hort Innovation with vegetable grower levies and funding by the Australian Government.

 

 

 

 

 

Agrichemical Pest Management Needs + Priorities Workshop

Obviously, pesticides are an important tool in the production of vegetables. They control various diseases, weeds and insects that affect crops and severe economic losses in modern, high intensity growing operations.

To ensure that the agrichemical needs of the vegetable sector are accurately recorded and understood, AUSVEG is coordinating the  Vegetable Agrichemical Pest Management Needs and Priorities (VG16060) project, a strategic levy investment under the Hort Innovation Vegetable Fund. The project’s objective is to coordinate vegetable industry agrichemical pest needs by prioritising and identifying potential gaps. Gaps identified in this process will inform industry actions at the annual AgChem Collaborative Forum.

Patrick Arratia, is the Project Coordinator, and responsible for establishing the prioritisation process in consultation with Australian vegetable growers.  Patrick is honing in on singular commodity groups for this process, and will be visiting Bundaberg to meet with local sweetpotato and zucchini growers from throughout the Wide-Bay Burnett region.

The workshops are being held in the first week of May, on Friday 4 May 2018 – at the Bundaberg Business Enterprise Centre (cnr of Quay and Tantitha Streets, Bundaberg).  So, if you grow sweetpotato or zucchinis, come along to a workshop to discuss and contribute to an effective pest and disease prioritisation process.

Sweet Potato in boxThe workshop for sweetpotato growers will be at 10am to midday, and includes light lunch and refreshments – RSVP online.

The workshop for zucchini growers will be from 1pm to 3pm, and includes afternoon tea – RSVP online.

For further information contact Bundaberg Fruit & Vegetable Growers’ Vegetable Industry Development Officer, Michelle Haase – 07 4153 3007 or via email.  Project queries or technical questions can be made directly with Patrick via email or mobile – 0418 982 572

Source & Acknowledgements:  AUSVEG – Industry representative body for vegetable and potato growers – www.ausveg.com.au. Post written by Michelle Haase – Vegetable Industry Development Officer (VegNET) with Bundaberg Fruit & Vegetable Growers – www.bfvg.com.au. Funding for the VegNET National Vegetable Extension Network program is from Hort Innovation with vegetable grower levies and funding by the Australian Government.