Australia has a modest vegetable but growing protected cropping industry. Estimates of vegetable production under protected cropping vary from 498 – 1,300 ha, with tomatoes accounting for about half the area. Low- to medium-technology structures are most common, with high technology structures increasing in recent years to meet specific market requirements. Soilless growing media is increasingly dominating the sector.

There is a large and rapidly growing international protected cropping and hydroponics research knowledge base. Australian research has contributed about 4% to this research knowledge base. A key object of any Australian protected cropping R&D investment should be to ensure that there is capacity in Australia to interpret and adapt the large international research knowledge base to local conditions.

This review is structured around four broad areas: Productivity, Technology, Plant Protection and Environment. Three questions were used to focus the review; 1. How specific is the issue/R&D area to protected cropping? 2. At what stage is the R&D area? and 3. Is international R&D relevant to the Australian protected cropping issue/R&D area?

Overall, a clear strategic research gap was identified by the review. Australia has a very high radiation load across much of the country. Radiation loads impact on the light and heat levels experience by crops in protected cropping. With much of the international research undertaken at far lower radiation levels, sometimes half that commonly experienced in Australia, this will limit the direct transfer of international research and technology. Some research is therefore required to understand and manage protected cropping systems under these high radiation loads.