Increased climate variability is a key challenge facing the Australian vegetable industry. Heat waves, heavy rain, unseasonal frosts, hail and other extreme weather events can reduce quality at least, and result in total crop write-off in severe situations. Such events threaten the viability of vegetable farms and impact supply to customers and consumers, creating issues throughout the supply chain.

Technological solutions such as high-tech greenhouses can provide a level of control and certainty. However, the expense of such structures is not justified by returns for many vegetable crops, which can be relatively low value, space consuming, or simply not suited to full protective cultivation. Low cost protected cropping offers a compromise between the cost of high technology and the need to provide some protection to crops from adverse conditions.

This project began with a review of low-cost protected cropping options, which identified shade structures, wind-breaks and floating row covers as the most potentially effective options for vegetable growers.

These options were subsequently trialled in a large number of growing sites around Australia. Crops grown during the trials included capsicum, chilli, and leafy greens.