INDUSTRY UPDATE

Along with Hortlink, don’t forget that Hort Innovation’s strawberry grower page is an important source of industry info for levy payers. On it you’ll find:

  • The new Strawberry Strategic Investment Plan (SIP) for 2017-2021, with an easy-to-read ‘at a glance’ version and the full PDF document. The SIP was finalised in April after close consultation with growers and other industry stakeholders. It outlines priorities for strategic investment in the industry, and will be used like a ‘roadmap’ by the strawberry Strategic Investment Advisory Panel (SIAP) when providing advice to Hort Innovation on potential levy investments.
  • The latest meeting notes from the strawberry SIAP, which most recently met across March 1 and 2 in Melbourne, and is due to meet again during September.
  • Current financial documents regarding your levy, including the July 2016 to March 2017 financial operating statement, and expenditure summaries for R&D and marketing projects.
  • Grower resources, events and articles of interest to the industry.

Any questions?

As well as the strawberry grower page, Hort Innovation Relationship Manager Bradley Mills is always available to answer questions on the strawberry program on 0408 635 465 or at bradley.mills@horticulture.com.au.

R&D SNAPSHOT

NEW, ONGOING AND COMPLETED PROJECTS FOR THE INDUSTRY

National strawberry varietal improvement program (BS12021) 

Status: Ongoing project

What’s it all about? To ensure the Australian strawberry industry has access to improved, locally-adapted varieties into the future, Hort Innovation is continuing to support breeding for targeted environments. This is done under the national breeding project with the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (DAF). Established in 2012, this project is:

  • Using quantitative genetics to develop new varieties with increased fruit size and early yield
  • Identifying and incorporating resistance to wilt diseases into new varieties
  • Looking at the economic significance of traits to ensure the most economically beneficial traits are the focus of varietal development
  • Developing varieties to boost consumer satisfaction.

This project has different ‘nodes’, representing different commercial production regions with their own varietal needs, which are predominantly climate-based.

What’s the latest update? Work continues to lead towards the commercial availability of new varieties for Australia’s growing regions. During the 2016/17 season, approximately 1200 seedlings were evaluated, and so far 10 selections have been identified to advance to the next stage, which includes on-farm trialling.

At the time of reporting in last Hortlink, in the project’s southern node (covering the sub-tropical production zones of southern Queensland and parts of New South Wales), one day-neutral and two short-day cultivars were already with growers for on-farm trialling. Pending positive results, it was expected the cultivars would be available semi-commercially during 2017 and commercially in 2018.

Also as reported in last Hortlink, In the project’s northern node (representing the temperate production zones of Victoria, South Australia, some of New South Wales, and Tasmania), outputs of the project during 2016 included the commercial release of varieties ‘Parisienne Kiss’ and ‘Sundrench’.

If you missed it, you can read up on the project’s tissue-culture work on p3 of the March edition of Simply Red, produced under project BS15002, described below.

Facilitating the development of the Australian strawberry industry – national oversight and communications (BS15002)

Status: Ongoing project

What’s it all about? Established during 2016, this project is facilitating the adoption of innovation and R&D within the strawberry industry through key communication channels.

It is linked to projects Facilitating the development of the Australian strawberry industry – sub-tropical regional delivery (BS15003) and Facilitating the development of the Australian strawberry industry – temperate regional delivery (BS15004). Combined, the development program is geared towards improving knowledge and skills, and supporting practice change to ensure the profitability and sustainability of the industry.

What’s the latest update? National project BS15002 continues to produce and maintain industry communication channels including:

The regional projects each continue to feed into the national program and deliver additional activities such as workshops, grower groups, farm walks, field days, study tours, case studies and industry analysis.

Specifically, BS15003 and BS15004 are responsible for funding the positions of industry development officers (IDOs) to carry out these activities.

The IDO for sub-tropical growing regions – Queensland, New South Wales and the northern growing areas of Western Australia – is Jennifer Rowling (office@qldstrawberries.com.au). You can read more about her work, including the collection of runner data that is part of both regional projects, in her profile at the bottom of this page.

The IDO for temperate growing regions – Victoria, South Australia, Tasmania and the southern growing areas of Western Australia – is Angela Atkinson (ido@vicstrawberry.com.au). Recent activities facilitated by Angela include the Victorian Strawberry Forum, held on May 4 and 5 and including workshops, a farm walk, and networking opportunities.

Activities run by the IDOs are advertised in industry channels, including newsletters and the events section of the Strawberry Innovation website.

Strawberry industry minor use program (BS16001)

Status: Ongoing project

What’s it all about? Through this project, levy funds and Australian Government contributions are used to renew and apply for new minor use permits for the strawberry industry. These submissions are prepared and submitted to the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA).

The minor use program is also supported by the project Generation of residue, efficacy and crop safety data for pesticide applications in horticulture crops 2017 (ST16006) which, as the name suggests, is responsible for generating data to support a range of permit applications for a range of industries. Project ST16006 uses grant funds from the Australian Government’s Agvet program, which you can read more about here, plus some levy contributions.

What’s the latest update? All current minor use permits for the industry are searchable at portal.apvma.gov.au/permits. Permit updates are also circulated in Hort Innovation’s Growing Innovation e-newsletter, which levy-paying members receive monthly. Not a member? Sign up for free here.

Improved management of charcoal rot of strawberry (BS15005)

Status: New project

What’s it all about? This project will help tackle charcoal rot, with the goal of reducing its occurrence and its related losses and costs for the Australian strawberry industry. It will investigate improved management approaches including chemical, biological and cultural options for the disease, which is caused by the fungus Macrophomina phaseolina and has symptoms including crown and root rot, plant wilting and yellowing of leaves (chlorosis).

What’s the latest update? With the project currently being contracted, more detailed updates will be provided in future editions of Hortlink.

Other R&D projects of note…
  • Enhanced National Bee Pest Surveillance Program (MT16005), which is delivering a nationally coordinated bee-pest surveillance program to help safeguard honey-bee and pollinator-dependent industries in Australia. The surveillance will enable the early detection of high-priority pest incursions of honey bees, providing the best opportunity for successful pest eradication. The strawberry industry is one of several contributors to the project’s work.
  • SITplus: Developing and optimising production of a male-only, temperature-sensitive-lethal, strain of Qfly, B. tryoni (MT13059), which is developing a ‘temperature-sensitive lethal, male-selecting’ strain of Queensland fruit fly (Qfly). To put simply, the research will allow for male-only, sterile fruit flies to be bred in large numbers. It is one of the key projects in the broader strategic co-investment SITplus initiative that’s tackling the issue of Qfly. The male flies are to ultimately be released in growing regions of south-eastern Australian that are affected by Qfly. They will come to outnumber the wild male population in these areas and by mating with wild females – and limiting the opportunity for wild males to do so – they are intended to lead to the collapse of wild Qfly populations. The strawberry industry is one of several involved in the project.
  • Continuation of pilot systems to validate Pest Free Place of Production for Queensland fruit fly in the Yarra Valley (MT15028), which is currently wrapping up. The project has followed on from previous work to develop systems to validate ‘Pest Free Place of Production’ for Queensland fruit fly in the Yarra Valley, helping support market access for local growers by enabling trade of host fruits to several domestic markets without the need for costly treatment and certification. It has been supported by a number of industries.

FACES OF HORTICULTURE

JENNIFER ROWLING, INDUSTRY DEVELOPMENT OFFICER, QLD

Jennifer Rowling is the strawberry industry development officer (IDO) for the sub-tropical growing regions of Australia, encompassing Queensland, New South Wales and the northern growing areas of Western Australia.

“It’s an incredibly rewarding position, where I feel a real sense of making a difference,” Jennifer said. “As an IDO, I’m there to provide information to strawberry producers – including the latest information in research and development and new technologies – so that they can make the best decisions, be up to date with everything that’s going on, and participate in a whole range of industry activities.”

Outside of industry events such as field days, farm walks and forums, Jennifer encourages growers to be in touch with her any time for strawberry growing information and advice. “Pick up the phone (0438 752 177) or send me an email (office@qldstrawberries.com.au). Sometimes I won’t have the answer, but if I can’t solve the problem or offer guidance straight off, I’ll go away and we’ll find a way to address it.”

And that’s one of the great things about the role, Jennifer said. “There’s such a diverse range of issues an IDO comes across. I love working with such a great bunch of growers to help them improve their businesses, reduce their productivity costs and increase their quality, which can mean anything from helping them find alternative options for pest management in their businesses, to looking at alternative production models through soil-less media and protected cropping.”

A collaborative effort

In her role, under Hort Innovation project Facilitating the development of the Australian strawberry industry – sub-tropical regional delivery (BS15003), Jennifer works closely with the industry’s temperate region IDO (funded under project BS15004 and hosted by the Victorian Strawberry Industry Development Committee), as well as the overarching national strawberry development project (delivered by RMCG under project BS15002). “With all three projects, we have the industry covered for support and information. It’s a real collaborative effort.”

Jennifer is eager to see that spirit of collaboration extend among growers, too. “We have a strawberry field day coming up in Queensland during July, and it would be great to see some interstate participation. The temperate IDO, Angela Atkinson, and I are really working towards this, as we can see it’s such a good thing for growers to be talking to each other, getting ideas, and generally increasing cross-border communications,” Jennifer said.

“In early May, I took some sub-tropical growers down to the two-day Victorian Strawberry Forum hosted in the temperate region. The conversations that were had between growers were really valuable, particularly around substrate production and protected cropping. It was all about opening the lines of communication between people who are already doing these things and those who want to be doing them.”

Upcoming study tours will also be an opportunity for growers to learn from each other, both within and outside the strawberry industry, Jennifer said. Look for these opportunities to be advertised in industry channels including the Simply Red magazine, The Punnet e-newsletter and the Strawberry Innovation website.

Runner data – the next big thing

The industry development projects are currently scoping ways to collect runner data for the benefit of the entire industry. “Runner data is basically information about how many plants are in the ground within the Australian strawberry industry, where they are, what type of plants they are, and the trends around planting, seasons, varieties and plant health issues” Jennifer said.

“Collected from both runner and fruit growers, this data can provide a wide range of information and benefits. For example, data about plant health and how certain varieties are performing means we’ll be able to provide information into the national breeding program to better produce future varieties for each growing region.”

Jennifer said the data will also be of value to individual businesses. “It will ultimately give growers an idea about what’s going on in the industry, and where it’s headed – about growing trends and seasonal crossovers. A grower will be able to look at the information that’s summarised and analysed and make decisions about what they want to do in their business. For example, if the data suggests an overproduction of varieties in the early part of the season, a grower might decide to focus their efforts later in the season.”

How growers can take part

Jennifer said that while an official plan to collect runner data nationwide is still in the works, small pockets of information are already being collected. “I currently tap into the Queensland Strawberry Growers Association database. So if you’re a member and are doing a renewal of your membership, I’ll request a bit of information, such as what varieties you’re growing, how much land you have planted to strawberries, things like that. The information any grower provides is strictly confidential, and it’s the beginning of the industry being able to build a picture that will benefit everyone.”

With work progressing in this area, growers are encouraged to look out for calls for the collection of information in industry channels. “When the time comes, the more information we get, the more accurate the data is going to be, and the more it will benefit the industry.”

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