Review of current irrigation technologies (VG14048)
Status: Completed project
What was it all about? Wrapping up at the end of 2016, this project was designed to give Australian vegetable growers an understanding of available and emerging irrigation practices and technologies, and to support the uptake of more efficient water practices.
With a focus on producing resources and education tools for growers, some of the outputs of the project have been three videos highlighting current and progressive technologies available here, here and here. There was also delivery of 19 workshops across the country, attended by over 225 growers and other industry stakeholders, and a review document of current irrigation technologies.
Full details can be found in the project’s final report, available to order at www.horticulture.com.au/about/resources-publications-final-reports. Final reports are free to Australian horticulture levy payers, registered Hort Innovation members and industry representative bodies.
Soil condition management – extension and capacity building (VG13076) and Extension of integrated crop protection information (VG13078)
Status: Ongoing projects
What are they all about? Project VG13076 is the industry’s well-respected Soil Wealth project, while VG13078 is the equally important Integrated Crop Protection initiative. Together, the projects are responsible for delivering essential information on soil, pest and disease management to help vegetable growers implement practical, economically sound, sustainable practices within their businesses.
Key program topics include reduced tillage approaches; compost and soil biology; correct nutrition; the role and use of cover crops, including for natural weed suppression; control methods for specific pests and diseases; and integrated pest management (IPM) for environmentally sensitive pest control.
What’s the latest update? To support the uptake of improved management practices, both programs deliver information through a range of channels, including direct engagement with growers and horticulture advisors; demonstrations of new innovations on grower properties; workshops; farm walks; webinars hosted by relevant experts; social media; and the delivery of resources such as factsheets, videos and web content.
For full information on both projects, visit www.soilwealth.com.au.
Upcoming events in both projects, including farm walks, webinars and more, are listed here, while all resources available through the projects, including fact sheets, case studies and videos, are available here.
Growers learning about land management practices at a demonstration site in Western Australia, as part of the Soil Wealth and Integrated Crop Protection programs
Using autonomous systems to guide vegetable decision making on-farm (VG15003)
Status: Ongoing project
What’s it all about? Beginning in 2016, this project is all about the application of intelligent sensing systems, robotics and precision agriculture automation in Australia’s vegetable industry. It is developing, evaluating and ultimately supporting the commercialisation and adoption of such technologies, with the end goal of increasing industry productivity, particularly in relation to brassica, lettuce and baby leaf growing.
Applications will help improve crop performance and resource use – including through the precision application of inputs – and assist in decision making by providing timely and accurate information such as predictions of optimum harvest time and the estimation of yield and product quality.
The project is linked to Evaluating and testing autonomous systems developed in VG15003 in Australian vegetable production systems (VG15059), which is responsible for expanding evaluation of technologies across a range of growing regions and crops.
What’s the latest update? In addition to laboratory work, the project is progressing the study of a range of sensing systems using the well-known Ladybird and RIPPA robots in both trial-farm and commercial-farm settings (read more about the robots here).
These sensing systems for on-farm decision-making include:
- Imaging sensors for detecting crop and weeds
- 3-D point cloud sensors to observe plant structure
- Hyperspectral sensors that can provide information outside the visible spectrum – which may, for example, help identify water stress and damage before changes are visible to the human eye
- Thermal cameras for detecting water stress
- Soil probes for mapping soil properties such as moisture and conductivity.
Work is also progressing in relation to mechanical weeding, with a mechanical weeding mechanism developed that uses a tine to remove weeds detected using the ‘VIIPA’ (Variable Injection Intelligent Precision Applicator) perception system.
As with project VG15059, the project has also continued to showcase the applications of the RIPPA robot to vegetable growers – including functionalities such as automated driving, automated soil mapping and data collection – as part of demonstrations on commercial farms.
The RIPPA (left) and Ladybird (right) robots being used in projects VG15003 and VG15059
Vision systems, sensing and sensor networks to manage risks and increase productivity in vegetable production systems (VG15024)
Status: Ongoing project
What’s it all about? Beginning at the end of 2015, this project is all about the application of automation, robotics, vision systems and sensing technologies (specifically hyperspectral imaging and wireless sensor networks) in the vegetable industry. It has a particular focus on rapid yield assessment and earlier problem detection, to increase on-farm productivity and manage risks.
The project’s work involves collaboration between the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, the Queensland University of Technology and CSIRO.
What’s the latest update? With a number of avenues of research, recent work in the project has included:
- Ongoing trials and data collection working towards the development of vision-system tools for rapid yield assessment in vegetable crops. Looking at capsicum, two protected-cropping trials have been completed, with three more planned for later this year. In this vision system work, cameras are capturing 3D data of capsicums to ‘train’ and evaluate vision-based algorithms. The first field-grown trials in this area were planted in September last year, with data collection beginning in December.
- New trials working towards early problem-detection using hyperspectral imaging. Initial research is looking at the development of tomato spotted wilt virus in capsicum, with the goal of using hyperspectral imaging to detect disease symptoms before they are visible to the human eye. Being conducted in tightly controlled conditions, these initial capsicum trials are being used as a proving ground for the research methodology before more complex plant problem scenarios are approached, and before in-field research can be conducted. The researchers note this a complex and highly experimental type of investigation.
Capsicum plants being used in the hyperspectral imaging trials as part of project VG15024. Under controlled conditions, the leaves will be imaged to build a ‘spectral signature’ of tomato spotted wilt virus, to progress hyperspectral identification of the disease.
Improved skill for regional climate in the ACCESS-based POAMA model (VG13092)
Status: Ongoing project
What’s it all about? POAMA is the CSIRO and Bureau of Meteorology’s seasonal prediction system, and ACCESS is a new national modelling system for applications ranging from weather forecasting to climate change projections. This project represents a component of work, evaluating improvements to the ACCESS model and allowing the vegetable industry to feed into its development. The overall aim is to provide improved spatial and temporal forecasting in regions of interest to vegetable growers.
What’s the latest update? The next version of the modelling system, ACCESS-S1, is due to become operational this year. Recent work in this project has focused on evaluating the performance of the new system for rainfall, maximum temperature and minimum temperature forecasts on seasonal and multi-week timescales in nine key regions of importance to vegetable growing. The researchers note that there is still scope for improvement in the forecasts.
The effects of using anhydrous ammonia to supply nitrogen to vegetable crops (VG15062)
Status: Completed project
What was it all about? Anhydrous ammonia is a high-nitrogen fertiliser used widely in the cotton and grain industries. This project has investigated the potential for its use in the vegetable industry as a cost-effective and efficient method of supplying nitrogen to crops. It has culminated in the production of this factsheet for growers: Anhydrous ammonia for vegetable crops: Could it be a viable option?
The researchers note that the fertiliser, which is applied using specialised equipment, has beneficial effects on soil microbes, nitrifying bacteria and worms. It is also initially converted in the soil to ammonium, which can be held in the soil and resists leaching.
They suggest that anhydrous ammonia could be used effectively in the vegetable industry, though it is more suited to row crops than crops such as baby leaf, which require more even distribution of nitrogen across the beds.
Full details are found in the factsheet and also in the project’s final report, which will soon be available to order at www.horticulture.com.au/about/resources-publications-final-reports. Final reports are free to Australian horticulture levy payers, registered Hort Innovation members and industry representative bodies.
Application of anhydrous ammonia as part of project VG15062
Developing technical guidelines and a best practice extension toolbox for greenhouse construction and safe operation (VG16004)
Status: Ongoing project
What’s it all about? Beginning in 2016, this project is developing nationally recognised greenhouse standard for inclusion in Australia’s National Construction Code. It follows on from previous industry project Building codes and greenhouse construction (VG13055) and is also developing a best-practice suite of tools and extension materials for greenhouse construction and safe operation. It will ultimately ensure growers are all on the same page and support the construction of strong, reliable, safe and cost-effective structures for protected growing in the vegetable industry.
What’s the latest update? Towards the end of last year, the project ran the ‘Greenhouse Construction and Safe Operation Grower Survey’ through numerous industry channels, with data now being analysed. The survey contained questions aimed at obtaining information surrounding growers’ needs, concerns and suggestions in regards to the certification, operation and information requirements of greenhouse and other growing structures in Australia. The survey also identified growers for future field investigations and data collection in the project.
Work continues in other aspects of the project, including the development of platforms to distribute fact sheets, case studies and regulatory guidance.
Other Farm Productivity, Resource Use & Management projects of note…
Specific project activity updates will be provided in future editions of Hortlink, as they become available.
- Adoption of precision systems technology in vegetable production (VG16009), a new project to support the vegetable industry in adopting precision agriculture technologies. The researchers note that industry investment in machine guidance and controlled traffic systems means it is primed to develop and optimise precision approaches. The project will develop case-study farms in each state for research and extension, including training events and field days, and will develop video and fact-sheet resources to showcase potential applications of relevant precisions technologies. With work getting underway at the beginning of this year, more detailed project updates will be provided in future editions of Hortlink.
- Facilitating adoption of IPM through a participatory approach with local advisors and industry – training component (VG15034) and its associated Coordination component (VG15035) and Evaluation component (VG15036). These ongoing projects are working to increase the uptake of integrated pest management practices among vegetable growers, with the overarching aim to make IPM a mainstream method of controlling pests within a decade. There is an initial focus on South Australian activities, with a view to expand to other regions.
- A multi-faceted approach to soil-borne disease management (VG15010), an ongoing project that provides vegetable growers with the skills, tools and solutions needed to manage the risk of crop losses due to soilborne diseases. The project includes the use of best-practice demonstration sites, field days, workshops, videos, fact sheets and other digital resources, as well as integration with the Soil Wealth and Integrated Crop Protection programs (soilwealth.com.au) to extend results.
- A strategic approach to weed management for the Australian vegetable industry (VG15070), which was established at the end of 2016 to deliver weed management tools and approaches. The project will identify and improve integrated management strategies for high-priority weeds and develop guidelines and a host of resources for growers. It will ultimately help reduce the dependence on herbicides and tillage for weed control, which can become ineffective when used repeatedly. Read more about the project in this Hort Innovation news article, produced for the project’s launch last year.
- Investigating novel glass technologies and photovoltaic in protected cropping (VG15038), which began in 2016. This project is improving energy-efficient design and energy use in greenhouses, having a focus on the use of smart glass and semi-transparent photovoltaic glass (STPVG). It will deliver a reliable and comprehensive evaluation of innovative technologies, including their economic viability and benefits. When it was announced in July last year, it received plenty of media attention, with Hort Innovation’s news article still available here.
- Data analytics and app technology to guide on-farm irrigation (VG15054), which is developing a mobile app that will help guide irrigation decisions on-farm. The app will be able to estimate vegetable crop water use and soil water balance, and as a result take away some of the uncertainty when it comes to knowing when and how much to irrigate.
- Optimising benefits of vermiculture in commercial-scale vegetable farms (VG15037), which is investigating the use of commercial-scale vermiculture in the Australian vegetable industry to improve productivity (with vermiculture the cultivation of earthworms to convert organic waste into compost and/or for direct soil integration and management). The project will develop guidelines for the use of vermiculture as part of soil and nutrient management, and provide a cost/benefit analysis to help growers decide whether to adopt the approach.
- Effective pollinators and their requirement in vegetable crops (VG16013), a new project investigating the effectiveness of native bees as alternative pollinators to honey bees in select crops (solanaceous and curcubit vegetables) in protected cropping set-ups. The work will look at improving native bee husbandry and their use in glasshouses, and delve into how key environmental factors in glasshouses impact on pollinators and pollination to optimise pollination services.
- Investigating labour supply options across the Australian vegetable Industry (VG15025), which has been responsible for investigating the labour supply needs of the industry and how they are currently being met, and for identifying labour solutions. This project has recently concluded, with its report to be extended to industry shortly.
- Review of the National Biosecurity Plan for the Vegetable Industry (VG15065), which began in 2016 and is reviewing the industry’s current biosecurity plan. The revised plan will identify the current highest-risk pests to the industry, the risk mitigation activities needed to reduce the biosecurity threat, and the surveillance and diagnostic activities and capabilities available.
- Strengthened biosecurity for the Australian vegetable industry – stage 2 (VG15020), an ongoing project that supports the activities of the Vegetable Industry Biosecurity Advisor at AUSVEG. The advisor coordinates industry input into a range of biosecurity matters, and helps ensure effective communication of relevant technical information on biosecurity to growers.
- Characterisation of a carlavirus of French bean (VG15073), which was established at the end of 2016 to characterise a new carlavirus found infecting Fabaceae crops in in South East Queensland, and identify potential distribution and incidence of the virus in other French bean production regions of Australia. Importantly, the project will develop and help growers adopt management strategies for the virus, resulting in improved pack-out, increased marketable yield and a reduction in the impact of the disease.
- Innovative solutions for management of tospoviruses of vegetable crops (VG14063), an ongoing project that aims to address gaps in DNA sequence information for Australian tospoviruses, which infect a broad range of horticulture crops. This information is critical for the development of diagnostics and for management. The project also aims to generate information on host-pathogen interactions that may lead to identification of novel genes for resistance and help deliver broad-spectrum resistance to tospoviruses.
- Improved management options for cucumber green mottle mosaic virus (VG15013), which began early in 2016 to help combat the threat of cucumber green mottle mosaic virus. Its work includes identifying weed hosts of the virus and the potential role of other factors, including honey bees, in its incidence. It will also develop improved diagnostics for plant and seed material, with a view to developing in-field tests for rapid detection, and produce guidelines and other materials to support improved virus management and help growers strengthen on-farm biosecurity.
- Effective management of parsley summer root rot (VG13101), an ongoing project that is developing a greater understanding of summer root rot of parsley and investigating effective management options.
- Management and detection of bacterial leaf spot in capsicum and chilli crops (VG14010), an ongoing project that aims to increase the capacity of the vegetable industry to implement integrated disease management programs for bacterial leaf spot of capsicum and chilli field crops. It is identifying causal agents of the disease, reviewing existing research and filling in knowledge gaps, and investigating control measures.
- New in-field treatment solutions to control fruit fly (1) (VG13041) and New in-field treatment solutions to control fruit fly (2) (VG13042), which have been developing approaches for in-field control of fruit fly in vegetable crops, to allow market access interstate and overseas. Project VG13042 recently wrapped up, while VG13041 is due for completion in the coming months. Both projects’ findings will be summarised in an upcoming edition of Hortlink.
- Advanced stable fly management for vegetable producers (VG15002), which began in 2015. The project is investigating strategies to reduce the development of stable flies in crop residues left after vegetable harvest. As well as assessing the ability of the flies to lay eggs on residues, it is looking at the use of new machinery for deep burial of crop residues; the use of biological agents including beneficial fungi and predatory insects; and non-chemical approaches to removing stable flies from carrier animals. Recent work has highlighted the potential for burial and compaction of post-harvest resides to dramatically reduce stable fly development.
- Precision seeding benefits for processing pea production (VG15039), which began in late 2016. This project will help improve the productivity and profitability of processing peas in Tasmania specifically, to underpin an industry average yield on eight tonnes/hectare. It will evaluate stand density and plant spatial arrangements, and explore ways to modify plant structure from single to multiple stems at establishment to increase overall number of pods on the first and seconds nodes that flower (these are the nodes which contribute to over 90 per cent of overall yield). The project will also evaluate commercial seeders and establishment practices.
- Improving soilborne disease diagnostic capacity for the Australian vegetable industry (VG15009), an ongoing project that is using world-leading DNA testing technology to provide growers with a way to assess the risk of soilborne diseases caused by select pathogens prior to planting. This knowledge, when applied with sound disease and soil health management strategies, will contribute to a reduction in the losses from soil-borne diseases.
- Innovating new virus diagnostics and planting bed management in the Australian sweet potato industry (VG13004), which has been running since 2014 to build knowledge of endemic and exotic sweet potato viruses, and improve sweet potato virus diagnostic capacity in Australia. It has a number of key goals and activities, including reviewing current information on viruses and diagnostic techniques; conducting annual virus surveys and planting-bed monitoring in major growing regions; developing and implanting virus diagnostics; and communicating project-specific information via field walks, workshops, fact sheets and guides.
- 2016 Global Innovations in Horticulture seminar (VG15032), an ongoing project that is currently working towards delivery of the 2017 Global Innovations in Horticulture event. In 2016, the seminar was held on the Gold Coast in June. These events are designed to assist the industry in tackling current and future challenges. They convey knowledge about up-to-date technologies and practices, showcase new opportunities for levy investment, and promote collaboration between vegetable producers and researchers on a global scale. Grower attendance is supported by the project.
Further projects for this pillar also include…
- Investigating on farm HACCP programs for managing plant pests of biosecurity concern – an options paper (VG15051)
- Manipulation of regulatory microRNAs to suppress insecticide resistance in diamondback moth (VG13111)
- Viruses of national importance to the vegetable industry (VG15008)