From evaluating and strengthening the industry’s biosecurity to work into root-to-shoot balance in tree stock, there are a host of interesting projects currently funded by Hort Innovation using the nursery R&D levy. Read more in the R&D snapshot below. To see how the industry’s marketing levy is being put to use in 202020 Vision activity, check out the marketing snapshot.


The nursery Strategic Investment Advisory Panel (SIAP) met recently in November, with a meeting summary to be made available on Hort Innovation’s Nursery grower page.

The selection process for appointing an independent chair for the SIAP has also recently been completed, with information on the chair to be made available on the grower page shortly.

The Strategic Investment Plan

A Strategic Investment Plan (SIP) is the roadmap that helps ensure levy investment decisions align with individual industry priorities. It is used to guide decision-making in levy spending, and represents a balanced view of stakeholders in the industry.

Hort Innovation is currently consulting with growers and other industry stakeholders to finalise new SIPs for each industry by the end of the calendar year.

To learn more about the SIP process, visit Hort Innovation’s SIP Portal.

Any questions?

As well as the Nursery grower page, Hort Innovation Relationship Management Lead John Vatikiotis is always available to answer questions on the nursery program. For questions relating specifically to the industry’s marketing, contact Hort Innovation Marketing Manager Craig Perring.



Evaluation of nursery tree stock balance parameters (NY15001)

Status: Ongoing project

What’s it all about? Ensuring out-planted nursery trees have a high potential survival rate requires a balanced root and shoot system prior to dispatch. This project is investigating how species differences and climatic conditions in different production regions can affect this balance in tree stock.

By bringing together existing knowledge on root to shoot balance and quantifying this balance in tree stock across the country, the project aims to develop metrics for the industry to use in assessing the quality of tree stock for landscape planting. It is anticipated that the tree stock balance data will also be used to inform a revision of the current Australian Standard for tree stock for landscape use.

What’s the latest update? Research trials to quantify root to shoot balance of nursery tree stock are well underway, with over 6000 trees so far measured across eight production nurseries in New South Wales, Victoria and the Northern Territory.

From the preliminary findings, the researchers note a need for greater field-based evidence to determine the relationship between a tree’s size index and its container volume.

They note that the current Australian Standard specifies a range of size index values for tree stock in different container volumes at dispatch in order to quantify above and below-ground balance of advanced tree stock for landscape use. The project’s current findings suggest the specified size index likely does not encompass the inherent variation within and among tree stock across Australian production nurseries.

A draft review of scientific and trade literature around root to shoot balance has also been completed.

Presentations, fact sheets and other information related to this project are available here.


Measuring nursery stock as part of root to shoot balance work (above and below)



202020 Vision: Goods Line monitoring and evaluation research (NY13024)

Status: Completed project

What was it all about? The Goods Line is an old Sydney railway line that has been redeveloped as a social and interactive area with strong green-space components. This project sought to showcase the benefits of ‘urban greening’ by exploring the social and environmental benefits emerging from the redevelopment – and the extent to which they were related specifically to the increase in green space.

Some key findings:

  • Visitors to the Goods Line had a strong affinity for green space, with green space being the most commonly mentioned attribute of the site that they liked.
  • The research highlighted the importance of not only providing green space, but also the amenities necessary to support public enjoyment of the space, such as a range of seating, tables, and other facilities.
  • Stormwater runoff modelling showed that the redevelopment contributed to an almost 10 per cent decrease in runoff rates.
  • An air-quality study found no significant impact on air quality attributable to the redevelopment, though it may have contributed to mitigation of some pollutant concentrations on hot days.

Full details can be found in the project’s final report, which is available to order at (final reports are free to Australian horticulture levy payers, registered Hort Innovation members and industry representative bodies).


The north section of the Goods Line before and after its redevelopment


Building the resilience and on-farm biosecurity capacity of the Australian production nursery industry (NY15002)

Status: Ongoing project

What’s it all about? Beginning early in 2016, this project aims to enhance the biosecurity preparedness of the Australian nursery industry. It builds on earlier project Plant health, biosecurity, risk management and capacity building for the nursery industry (NY11001) and will develop new contingency plans, produce new and updated information, and deliver a pest identification tool to make diagnostic identifications more financially viable for production nurseries.

What’s the latest update? No new milestone report was due in the period since the last edition of Hortlink (Winter 2016). At the time of last reporting:

  • 88 diagnostic samples from production nurseries had been received from five states and were being analysed.
  • Information documents were being developed, including fact sheets on aphids, galling insects, gummy stem blight and Dutch elm disease, as well as pest management plans for thrips and scale insects. 
  • A program of workshops was also being rolled out.


National nursery industry biosecurity program (NY15004)

Status: Ongoing project

What’s it all about? This project is aims to ensure production nurseries in Australia are aware of and prepared for incursions of exotic plant pests, and that they have effective market access mechanisms in place to maintain business functionality.

Kicking off in February this year, a key part of the project is the development of an industry on-farm biosecurity program (BioSecure HACCP) to underpin national market access with electronic certification.

What’s the latest update? No new milestone report was due in the period since the last edition of Hortlink (Winter 2016). At the time of last reporting the project had completed a transitional phase, taking the national/state managed on-farm biosecurity program and transforming the system into a wholly nationally governed and administered program.

  • Key resources had been updated to accommodate the new system, with NIASA/BioSecure HACCP accredited growers contacted and advised of changes, and surveyed to assess interest in project participation.
  • The program had received official notification from the national Plant Health Committee of its support of BioSecure HACCP as a national market access program.
  • A pesticide list under the minor use program had been developed, with five pesticides nominated for permit applications in 2016 (two insecticides, two fungicides and one nematicide).


Communication program for the Australian nursery industry 2015-18 (NY15006)

Status: Ongoing project

What’s it all about? The industry’s communication program ensures Australian nursery and garden growers and other industry stakeholders are kept up-to-date with the latest news, information and R&D and marketing updates to support decision-making within businesses.

What’s the latest update? A number of regular communication channels continue to be produced and maintained by this project, including but not limited to:

  • Regular Nursery Papers looking at current industry projects, with the design of the publications now re-vamped for greater readability (with issues available here)
  • The Your Levy @ Work newsletter
  • The Nursery & Garden Industry Australia (NGIA) website and the Your Levy @ Work website
  • NGIA social media channels including Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and LinkedIn.

Media releases, the production of case studies for peer-to-peer learning and video content also form part of the communication program.


The October edition of Nursery Papers


Other R&D projects of note…

» 202020 Vision Training/Capacity Building Program (NY16002), a new project to drive awareness of and engagement with the 202020 Vision through national and regional workshops and regular updates provided to growers.

» Nursery industry statistics and research 2016/17 (NY16004), for which a service provider is currently being appointed to build on existing nursery data.

» Where should all the trees go? An investigation of the impact of tree canopy cover on socio-economic status and wellbeing in LGAs (NY16005), for which a service provider is currently appointed. This project will measure tree canopy cover and its impact on socio-economic status and wellbeing in local government areas, and support the nursery industry to achieve the goals of the 202020 Vision marketing campaign.



The 202020 Vision is currently in its fourth year. The program to date has been strongly focussed on working with business and government to implement more and better green space in our cities. This year the program is continuing that trend and will also have a shift to focus more on consumers/home gardeners. Some recent developments:


  • Working with government continues to be a key focus, with the team taking a bipartisan approach to the need for improved green space not only in metropolitan urban areas but also in regional urban areas. The 202020 Vision team recently met with Assistant Minister for Cities and Digital Transformation Angus Taylor to discuss the 202020 Vision and further meetings are being scheduled with other political parties to ensure all parties have a clear understanding of the 202020 Vision objectives.


  • Working with some key 202020 Vision partners, the South Australian Urban Forestry Masterclass was held at the SA Water Learning Centre on September 18, 2016. The workshop followed the How to Grow an Urban Forest Workbook and focussed on practical, cross-disciplinary solutions in implementing an urban forest.


  • October saw the launch of the new and improved 202020 Vision e-newsletter, which is sent weekly to a database of over 1800 recipients. The new publication includes a first of its kind ‘Ask Us’ concierge service via a Q&A section, the latest news and stories from the world of urban green space, green space projects from the 202020 Vision Directory of Good Design, experts from the Black Book of Green People, and a section to keep readers up to date on the latest events. If you’d like to receive the newsletter, you can sign up at the bottom of the 202020 Vision website.


  • The inaugural 202020 Vision training and capacity building forum was held in August to engage key industry stakeholders including state industry association CEO’s, current extension representatives, Nursery & Garden Industry Australia Board and staff, to ensure they are completely across the program and can advocate the 202020 Vision to all levy payers. Another workshop is to be held in early 2017.


  • Recently The 202020 Vision has been announced as a finalist in the highly regarded Banksia Sustainability Awards within the Sustainable Cities category. The Banksia Foundation, through their awards programs, raises the profile of the current sustainability issues facing Australia and recognises those whose initiatives are an encouragement and an example for others to follow. The winners will be announced in December 2016.


Many aspects of the program are currently being worked on in anticipation of being launched in the latter half of the 2016/17 financial year, including the consumer campaign. This campaign will feature the Healthy Homes Index, the building of the My Park Rules winner’s park, four more ‘How to’ guides, a focus on a schools program, and continuing urban forestry work through key partnerships including the City of Melbourne and the C40 Resilient Cities.



Hamish Mitchell was just 11 years old when he started running a small business mowing lawns and pruning fruit trees and roses.

“Gardening was big in my family and Dad’s veggie patch always needed tending to. Looking back, it seems I’ve always been into horticulture,” he said.

About 20 years ago, while employed as the horticultural supervisor for Parliament House in Canberra, Hamish took a trip to Melbourne to buy trees. “Trees were always the passion. I was interested in how they grew and what could be done to ensure they performed to the best of their ability,” he said.

“While I was in Victoria, a large nursery approached me to work with them growing a wide range of trees. That’s how I came to be in the nursery industry from the amenity horticulture side.”

These days Hamish owns and manages Speciality Trees, a longstanding wholesale production nursery located in Narre Warren East, Victoria.

“My wife, Gaby, and I took over Speciality Trees 10 years ago and have thoroughly enjoyed it. I think if you’re passionate about what you do, then that’s where you’re meant to be.”

Today Speciality Trees employs 20 people over two 20-acre sites and supplies landscapers, developers, councils, and high-end gardens throughout Victoria. The business grows approximately 350 varieties of trees, varying in size from five litres to 300 litres.

Hamish’s passion for trees is especially obvious in his dedication to ensuring customers receive a product that will thrive. “We need our customers to have success and the better we grow those trees, the greater their success will be. Seeing quality-grown trees leave the nursery and knowing that they’re going into a landscape where they’re going to be valued is a very satisfying thing,” he said.

“Our mission from the outset has been to supply trees that grow better in the landscape than they do in the nursery. That’s a difficult thing to do, because we’ve got a controlled environment in the nursery.”

Hamish said how a tree grows depends heavily on its early days in the production nursery. “We have never been about cutting corners or selling material early, the result of which is poorly formed specimens and trees that fail. Both outcomes are bad for us and the reputation of the industry in general.”

As well as producing quality material, the business values fostering partnerships with customers. These customers are increasingly driven by planting better-quality product, which in turn creates green environments that give back to the community.

“The benefit of trees from an air quality and mental health perspective is way undervalued and a massive opportunity for us. Not only do we want to grow better performing trees, but we want to educate people on the value of trees in general so we leave our patch better than we found it.”

Hamish said he’s interested in seeing the nursery industry come together more, working together to play a bigger part in the future of urban infrastructure. He also said that customers need to be better educated about the importance of accreditation in the nursery business, especially due to biosecurity risks.

“In an industry where disease can wipe out an entire native species and business due to product loss, biosecurity and accreditation underpinning that is extremely important. The introduction of the Australian Standard AS2303 (Tree Stock for Landscape Use) last year was a major step forward in promoting the need for greater grower accountability for the material being grown. The standard encourages interaction between the grower and the buyer on the growing processes undertaken to produce quality tree stock”.

As for his own business, Speciality Trees has a significant research and development program in place. It recently designed and custom-built a potting machine and engineered tailored trollies and cradles to aid the safer transportation of trees.

The business also takes advantage of climatic data and rain and evaporation gauging equipment, to determine how and when to irrigate their trees.

“We trial new growing techniques, grafting processes and work with breeders to develop new material with the aim of better survivability in the landscape. These trees aspire to offer improved performance in the urban landscape and are more robust to suit a changing climate,” Hamish said.

“The benefit of trees for improved air quality and reduced urban temperatures is well documented. We are focused on improving trees and offering a larger palette of climate-tolerant urban selections. For the industry, the next 50 years presents a major opportunity – to be recognised as a solution to a heating planet with all its associated health and wellbeing issues, and that’s exciting.”

Print page