A cutting edge South Australian research program, led by Dr Kathy Ophel Keller, is set to deliver benefits to Australia’s potato growers by providing them with a pre-planting soil test which will ultimately help them to save money on inputs, achieve greater yields, and produce a better crop.

Speaking at the upcoming Potato Industry Conference in Ballarat, Michael Rettke from the South Australian Research and Development Institute (SARDI) will discuss the future roll-out of a soil testing service for potato growers.
“Dr Ophel Keller’s research program aims to deliver pre-planting tests, as well as a manual which will be made available for growers, both of which will become an essential part of the potato grower’s toolbox,” said AUSVEG Manager – Special Projects, Christopher Ritchie.
AUSVEG is the National Peak Industry Body representing Australia’s 2,000 potato growers.
“The DNA based diagnostic testing service allows soils to be analysed for pathogen levels and susceptibility, which can then be given a risk rating. Growers will be able to use the information to make better decisions prior to planting and help manage diseases,” said Mr Ritchie.

Speaking alongside Michael Rettke at the Ballart Conference, other leading potato researchers will discuss research which can be implemented at the farm level in either the short or long term.
“There will be a diverse range of topics – from seed management, storage and farm finances to disease mitigation, potato innovation and irrigation – something for potato growers from all parts of the Australian industry,” said Mr Ritchie.
AUSVEG will also speak at the Conference, providing an update on its Potato Extension Program, as well as key findings from a recent grower study tour to Belgium and the United Kingdom which included attendance at the World Potato Congress in Edinburgh.
“This is an excellent opportunity to share with growers a number of insights that came out of the World Potato Congress concerning the potential of the potato, marketing and consumer insights,” said Mr Ritchie.
Broader matters within the industry will also be touched upon at the Conference, particularly the address from Professor Jim Pratley of Charles Sturt University who will discuss issues on attracting talent to agriculture.
“Australia’s horticulture and agriculture industries are facing a generational change. Not only is it necessary for industry to attract skilled and unskilled labour, but there is a dire need to encourage young people to pursue tertiary agricultural studies and to provide employment opportunities for them on the completion of their education,” said Mr Ritchie.
The Potato Conference is jointly run by the Victorian Certified Seed Potato Authority and Seed Potatoes Victoria. It will be held from 29-31 July 2012 at the Mercure Hotel, Ballarat. Registration details and other information are available at http://spv.org.au/ or by calling ViCSPA on 03 5962 0000.
MEDIA CONTACT: Christopher Ritchie – Manager – Special Projects, AUSVEG Phone: (03) 9822 0388, Mobile: 0401 350 406, Email: christopher.ritchie@ausveg.com.au