From new work into soils and groundwater in potato production to strong industry communications, Hort Innovation has continued to invest both the fresh and processing potato levies in a number of projects to benefit the industry. Read more in the R&D snapshot below.

INDUSTRY UPDATE

Since the last edition of Hortlink, both the fresh and processing potato Strategic Investment Advisory Panels (SIAPs) have held their inaugural meetings. The fresh SIAP met at the end of August and the processing SIAP met during October, with meeting notes available on Hort Innovation’s Potato – Fresh and Potato – Processing grower pages.

The selection process for appointing an independent chair for the SIAPs has also recently been completed, with information on the chair to be made available on the grower pages 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 Potato – Fresh and Potato – Processing grower pages, Hort Innovation Relationship Manager Christian Patterson is always available to answer questions on the potato program.

R&D SNAPSHOT

NEW, ONGOING AND COMPLETED PROJECTS FOR THE INDUSTRY

Potato industry communication program 2016-18 (PT15007)

Status: Ongoing project for both the fresh and processing potato industries

What’s it all about? Communications delivered via this project aim to grow awareness and on-farm adoption of the results of levy-funded projects for the Australian potato industry, inspiring Australian growers to take advantage of R&D results and innovate in their businesses.

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

  • The bi-monthly Potatoes Australia magazine, with current and past editions available to download here
  • The industry’s Weekly Update e-newsletter
  • AUSVEG social media updates
  • InfoVeg services, soon to include potato industry YouTube videos
  • An annual R&D summary and levy brochure
  • The annual Potato Grower Success Stories publication, which profiles growers who are incorporating R&D into their growing operations for peer-to-peer learning. The 2016 edition is to be distributed in the coming months.

The project also maintains an industry contact database and is responsible for media relations activities, including the production of media releases and contribution to external publications as needed.


potatoes-australia

A recent edition of Potatoes Australia


 

Other R&D projects of note…

» Extension program for the Australian potato industry 2016-2019 (PT15002), a new project that will deliver extension activities to meet the diverse needs of fresh and processing potato growers and other industry stakeholders. It aims to bring about increased usage of practical research findings across the industry.

» Impact of groundwater quality on the management of centre-pivot-grown potato crops (PT16001), a new project for which Hort Innovation is currently appointing a service provider. This project will assess groundwater quality in areas of potato production in South Australia (where groundwater quality is most variable) and investigate how regional and seasonal water-quality variability impacts on potato production and quality. It will ultimately deliver an effective management strategy for sustainable and profitable potato production.

» Exploring Spongospora suppressive soils in potato production (PT16002), another new project for which Hort Innovation is currently appointing a service provider. It will seek to confirm the presence of a soil (or multiple soils) with characteristics that suppress Spongospora diseases of potato. If suppression is demonstrated, it will identify the mechanisms for suppression and determine if the suppressive properties are transferrable to non-suppressive soils.

» Navigating the wealth of soil health information and identification of opportunities (PT16003), for which Hort Innovation is currently appointing a service provider. This project will allow potato industry growers and other stakeholders to better utilise soil health information and R&D on-farm. It will also develop a plan to further drive productivity improvements in soil health management.

» Review and update of the National Standard for Certification of Australian Seed Potatoes (PT15004)

GROWER PROFILE

TERRY BUCKLEY, BUCKLEY FARMS, SA

If there’s one thing to know about potato grower Terry Buckley, it’s that he’s not content if he’s not trying something new. “I’m a ‘new idea every three minutes’ kind of person,” he said. “For me, everything’s up for change and everything’s up for question all of the time.”

It’s this drive for change that sees Terry constantly evolving his business, with some of the more recent developments including redeveloped row spacing, new soil practices, and the introduction of variable-rate irrigation. And next up? Drones.

The innovation gene runs strong in Terry’s family. “I’m a fourth-generation potato grower on my father’s side and a fifth-generation grower on my mother’s, and my family has always been very big on ideas. My father is a keen engineer and over the years has built something like six potato harvesters on the farm, including what was potentially the first four-row, self-propelled potato harvester in the world,” Terry said.

As for Terry, with soil sustainability a passion he has changed the business’s cultivation techniques dramatically, moving towards less and less tillage. “I’ve also changed all our row spacings – we don’t grow on standard rows but on six-row beds, which allows us to produce the smaller potatoes that the market wants, without reducing yield.”

The biggest change, however, has been the introduction of variable-rate irrigation.

Terry retrofitted two centre pivots to variable-rate technology three seasons ago. “It’s been the most significant development in my potato-growing career,” he said. “Over the years the industry has seen an improvement in moisture monitoring and knowledge generally, but you weren’t able to do anything with the information. So you could tell with a neutron probe that the water was high in one spot, but if the soil was different just a bit further down the paddock and it was dry there, well what did you do? You just set the pivot on average. Now with variable-rate technology, we can tailor the water we put in to the needs of our variable soil type and highly variable sub-surface clay in different areas.”

Terry is using his two variable-rate irrigators in conjunction with EM soil mapping and capacitance probes for soil-moisture monitoring. “We’ve moved to the new probes, which are now free-standing and have their own solar panels, so you can locate them anywhere. They record moisture every hour, then send the data out to the iPads of our people in the paddock so they know what’s going on and what needs to be done.”

Because Terry doesn’t want to end up with probes all over the place, he said the next logical step is to harness the power of drone technology, which he is just starting on.

“The idea is that you get your moisture readouts and know you have the moisture correct where the probes are. Then you fly your drone over to do infrared mapping. From this you can see what the colour of the infrared picture is where the probes are at and the water is right – so if anything else is a different colour, you’ll know something’s not right there. You’ve pinpointed exactly where to go out and look, so it will be very efficient,” Terry said.

“Really, it’s a pretty exciting time to be in the industry,” he added.  “All of this technology is really great for decision-making on the land. It’s also taking people back to the soil, getting them really looking at what they’re doing with it.”

And things are only going to get better, Terry said. “With variable-rate irrigation, for example, we’re ultimately heading towards remote starting of the centre pivots. To do the irrigation run on our property is anywhere from 60 to 80km. It means you have to leave soon after lunch if you want to get back at a sensible time, which also means you have to start the irrigators up sooner than you’d ideally like. But if we can get to remote starting, we’ll be able to turn them on at the end of the day, from wherever we are, no troubles. What a world.”

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