Zucchini varieties and precision agriculture were the focus of a field day held in late 2019 at the Greater Sydney Local Land Services Demonstration Farm. Over 80 growers and industry members converged on the site on the Richmond Lowlands in the picturesque Hawkesbury region of New South Wales. The event was coordinated by NSW Industry Development Officers, and delivered as part of the National Vegetable Extension Network (VegNET).

More than 80 people turned out to the New South Wales VegNET field day, which was held late last year at the Greater Sydney Local Land Services (GS LLS) Demonstration Farm on the Richmond Lowlands. GS LLS partnered with one of the biggest rural supplier in NSW, Ace Ohlsson, and seed companies Terranova, Lefroy Valley, HM Clause and South Pacific Seeds to showcase over 20 zucchini varieties.

“These trials were designed to look at the crop performance and susceptibility to diseases such as mosaic virus. This included the size and shape of the fruit and flowers, as some growers also market zucchini flowers, which is why they were included in the assessment,” VegNET Industry Development Officer Sylvia Jelinek said.

As well as the varietal trial, a pollination trial was set up by Darryl Cislowski and his staff at Ace Ohlsson with the assistance from Adrian Grew, known as ‘The Bee Farmer’. A popular commercial zucchini variety was planted down an entire bed. One-third was permanently covered with floating row covers, one-third was covered in the morning until midday and one-third was permanently left uncovered. Growers were able to walk down the rows to judge for themselves the effect of row covers on pollination by seeing the amount of fruit. Adrian talked about the benefits of having beehives in or near zucchini crops to enhance pollination, improve good quality fruit and increase yield.

A number of suppliers and industry representatives also showcased a range of precision agricultural technologies, including XAG drones, Agerris’ digital farmhand robot, Ecrotek’s beekeeping systems and compost displays from Australian Native Landscapes.

Focus on precision ag

Julie O’Halloran, Senior Development Horticulturist at Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, provided excellent grower tips on how to use precision information technologies to better understand and manage crop variability.

Julie is working on the project Adoption of precision systems technology in vegetable production (VG16009), a strategic levy investment under the Hort Innovation Vegetable Fund. She discussed grower case studies that demonstrated a range of precision information technologies, including EM38 mapping, Veris™ mapping, variable rate technologies, satellite imagery, yield monitoring and drones.

All of these technologies are commercially available. Sylvia said the field day gave vegetable growers a chance to see the first-hand results of the zucchini demonstration trials and the potential benefits of precision agricultural technology. This is what the VegNET project is all about – taking the latest innovations and outcomes from levy-funded R&D and showing growers how it can be applied in the real world.

Grower feedback from the day was positive. They reported an excellent mix of demonstrations and speakers and were impressed by the number of zucchini varieties that were showcased. They also gained a greater understanding about the role that bees play in crops.

Previous VegNET evaluations have shown that field days, such as those held at the GS LLS Demonstration Farm, greatly assist growers in making decisions in adopting innovative practices to enhance their businesses. The GS LLS team is now busy preparing for a field day on sweet corn varieties, which is set to take place in March 2020.

Find out more

Please contact NSW Industry Development Officer Sylvia Jelinek from Greater Sydney Local Land Services on 0427 086 724 or sylvia.jelinek@lls.nsw.gov.au.

Regional capacity building to grow vegetable businesses – New South Wales 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: VG18003