Delivering during tough times: A look back on VegNET – Victoria Phase 2 highlights
Now that we have reached the end of the second phase of VegNET – Victoria (South-East, West and Northern Regions), Regional Development Officer Dimi Kyriakou revisits some of the project’s achievements over the past 18 months.
As I write this column during yet another lockdown in Victoria, it’s an uncomfortable reminder of the disruptions that our state’s vegetable industry has had to endure in recent months (as well as our colleagues interstate). While each growing operation has been affected differently throughout the pandemic, Victoria’s vegetable industry has once again demonstrated that resilience runs in the veins of every grower.
This has been buoyed by a demand for fresh produce, particularly in Victoria, where consumer insights from Nielsen showed a surge in vegetable sales as the ‘new normal’ correlated with eating more food at home and trying new recipes with fresh produce as their centrepiece.
Needless to say, the frequent lockdowns in Victoria over the past 18 months meant that we haven’t been able to visit growers on-farm as much as we would have liked. However, we continued delivering events online, developing resources and sharing information on relevant research to help growers address their priority issues, with some highlights from the project listed below.
Regional Extension Strategy
Phase 2 kicked off with the development of a five-year Regional Extension Strategy to address the priority issues of Victorian growers, which include water, profitability, pests and diseases, soil and nutrition management, and precision agriculture. The strategy takes a deep dive into three areas in particular:
- Water – soil moisture monitoring and retention.
- Profitability – resource use optimisation.
- Pest and disease management – native vegetation insectaries.
Ongoing engagement with researchers and services providers – delivering a range of levy-funded projects – were linked to growers, with a particular focus on the EnviroVeg self-assessment program and projects focusing on peri-urban surveillance and diagnostics, area wide management of insect-vectored viral and bacterial diseases in vegetables, biosecurity, the iMapPESTS sentinel and Soil Wealth and Integrated Crop Protection.
Managing irrigation requirements over the Victorian summer
As the weather starts to heat up, this webinar recording with Dr Kelvin Montagu from the Soil Wealth and Integrated Crop Protection team explains what is needed to accurately monitor soil moisture and how this information can be used to benefit your irrigation practices.
Access the webinar here on the AUSVEG VIC website.
Compost calculator – knowing the value of organic amendments in your Victorian vegetable nutrition program
The addition of organic soil amendments is becoming increasingly popular in vegetable production. Organic amendments provide a range of benefits to farming systems from both a production and economic perspective.
A project being delivered by Queensland University of Technology, in collaboration with La Trobe University, is seeking to provide growers and industry service providers with an effective decision support tool to integrate organic amendments into farm nutrient budgets.
Access the webinar to hear from the research team.
Translating precision agriculture data at Fresh Select
Fresh Select is one of the largest lettuce and brassica growers in Australia. As a leader in innovation, sustainable farming techniques and responsible practices, it has also been one of the first to trial precision agriculture technology in vegetables.
Precision agriculture refers to technologies that improve productivity by considering the variability of agricultural land and crop growth at sub-farm, row or plant scale. Also known as ‘site-specific crop management’, precision agriculture can ensure the right crop management strategies are implemented in the right place at the right time.
In Victorian vegetable production, precision agriculture is in its early days and the details of when, why and how precision technologies may be best used in horticulture are still open to interpretation. This case study explores the decision-making processes of Fresh Select along its precision agriculture journey.
New resources including native vegetation insectaries updates
At the time of writing, we were in the process of developing new resources for Victoria’s vegetable growers as well delivering additional events and webinars. This includes updates on the native vegetation insectaries plantings in Werribee South.
A refreshed fact sheet on what native vegetation insectaries are and how they can benefit vegetable growers can be found here.
Click here to check out the ‘Resources’ section of the AUSVEG VIC website for the latest updates from VegNET Victoria.
EGVID2020 recognised for R&D adoption and industry impact
VegNET – Victoria was proud to sponsor the R&D Adoption and Industry Impact Award for
the fifth year at the 2021 AUSVEG VIC Awards for Excellence, having developed the award back in 2016. The award highlights the important role of research and development (R&D) in supporting the profitability, productivity and sustainability of the vegetable industry.
Congratulations to the team behind the East Gippsland Vegetable Innovation Days (EGVID) 2020, who received the Victorian award as well as the national accolade at Hort Connections 2021.
Spanning over two hectares, the EGVID demonstration site showcased more than 20 vegetable crop types and around 2,000 varieties ranging from lettuce and baby leaf varieties to broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower and more. A series of videos capturing the extensive trial site can be accessed on the AUSVEG website.
You can also hear from past R&D Adoption award winners such as Andrew Fragapane (Fragapane Farms) and Mark and Darren Schreurs (Peter Schreurs & Sons) by clicking here.
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Find out more: Please contact VegNET – Victoria Regional Development Officer Dimi Kyriakou on 0488 124 626 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
VegNET – Victoria (South-East, West and Northern Regions) is a strategic levy investment under the Hort Innovation Vegetable Fund.
This project has been funded by Hort Innovation using the vegetable research and development levy and contributions from the Australian Government.
Project Number: VG19012
Cover image: In between farm visits, VegNET Victoria continued delivering events online, developing resources and sharing information on relevant research to help growers address their priority issues.