In late 2020, Sarah Limpus took up the Regional Development Officer (RDO) role for the National Vegetable Extension Network (VegNET) project in North Queensland with the Bowen Gumlu Growers Association (BGGA). Sarah works for the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, Queensland (DAF QLD) at Bowen and has been involved in many collaborative projects with the BGGA since relocating to the region in 2011.

Most recently, Sarah delivered a grower-led program to fast-track the adoption of precision agriculture and variable rate technology in vegetable and melon crops in the Bowen and Burdekin region. You can view some of these outcomes on YouTube.

Sarah’s background in research and development inspires her to view the VegNET Phase 2 program as an opportunity to map extension priorities pathways with an aim to cultivate future development projects.

Through consultation, key priorities were highlighted and refined in-line with Hort Innovation’s 2019-2023 strategy to maximise funding opportunities for biosecurity, productivity and sustainability in the region. In 2021, the VegNET project is delivering outcomes in the following areas:

  • Developing networks and systems to track and forecast endemic and exotic pest and disease incursions.
  • Establishing a coordinated, multidisciplinary approach to biosecurity, and regional pest and disease management.
  • Facilitating grower directed information and feedback sessions for new water quality regulations.
VegNET – North Queensland Regional Development Officer Sarah Limpus.

Sensor networks for microclimates

Established in late 2019, the micro-climate sensor network is getting a head start in delivering outcomes at Bowen. This project was funded by DAF QLD and hosted by the BGGA, with three automated weather stations placed in strategic locations around Bowen to monitor micro-climatic conditions.

The next phase of this project will lead the expansion of the weather stations into a community-owned sensor network that growers can access for vital data to assist with crop and farm management decisions. The long-term strategy is to develop the sensor network into a hyper-local forecasting system for micro-climatic conditions, and pest and disease control.

Reef regulations for new horticulture ventures

As VegNET RDO, Sarah assisted the Office of the Great Barrier Reef in hosting a consultation seminar at Bowen on 2 February. From 1 June this year, new standards for Environmentally Relevant Activity (ERA) – under the Environmental Protection Act 1994 – will apply to all new horticulture activities in the Great Barrier Reef Catchments. This means that new horticulture operations in Great Barrier Reef catchments of five hectares or more, which do not have a cropping history, will require an environmental authority permit prior to the commencement of new farming operations.

An extensive consultation tour was scheduled in North Queensland from January to February 2021. The tour spanned from Lakeland in the far north to Mackay in the south.

For more information about the new standards, please call the Office of the Great Barrier Reef on 13 74 68.

Fall armyworm field day

A fall armyworm (FAW) field day was held at the DAF QLD Research Facility in Bowen on 11 December 2020.

Growers, agricultural consultants, and industry support officers attended the event, which showcased the extensive work undertaken by DAF entomologist Dr Subra Subramaniam and his team in the Bowen and Burdekin region. This included crop surveys, FAW trap surveillance and sweet corn trials evaluating the efficacy of existing and new chemistries, as well as seed and soil treatments.

The surveys have also identified potential endemic parasitoids and predators of FAW. The team is currently establishing a population of one of these predators to conduct further work in 2021.

See the latest advice on FAW here or contact DAF QLD on 13 25 23.

Find out more

Please contact VegNET – North Queensland Regional Development Officer Sarah Limpus at Bowen Gumlu Growers Association on 07 4785 2860 or email

VegNET – North Queensland 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: VG19008