The Annual Vegetable Industry Seminar, held ahead of Hort Connections 2022 in Brisbane, attracted a room full of growers on Monday 6 June.
Presentations included a grower panel from the Soil Wealth ICP project which discussed the cutting-edge practices and technologies that are key to improving productivity, profitability and sustainability in the Australian vegetable industry.
Soil Wealth ICP team members Dr Gordon Rogers and Carl Larsen facilitated the discussion with growers who currently or previously hosted demonstration sites as part of the project. The growers shared why they became involved in Soil Wealth ICP, the areas of soil management and plant health that their demonstration sites focused on, as well as the benefits and lessons learnt, and what’s next for their soil and plant health journey.
Through their involvement in the Soil Wealth ICP demonstration sites, all four growers questioned many traditional methods of farming and changed their production practices to increase productivity and profitability, while taking care of soil and plant health.
Mulyan Farms Director Ed Fagan is a third-generation vegetable grower near Cowra, New South Wales. Ed and his brother James have taken a whole farm approach to rebuilding their soils, employing carefully planned crop rotations, reduced tillage and cover crops to revitalise the soil and enhance their productivity.
“Cover crops have made a world of difference and we’re putting in legumes to help manage the high cost of nitrogen fertilisers,” Ed said.
“Trash management is an ongoing challenge … but it’s amazing how healthy your soils can get by putting in cover crops.”
Schreurs & Sons Director Adam Schreurs has partnered with the Soil Wealth ICP team since 2014 to explore the use of cover crops and the application of precision agriculture in Koo Wee Rup, Victoria.
“We saw a lot of degradation over the years and when the demonstration sites came along we thought it was a great opportunity to get involved,” he said.
While ryegrass and ryecorn cover crops were found to work well with leek crops, a change to an integrated pest management approach meant that Adam has transitioned from calendar spraying insecticides every week to first identifying pests and beneficials in a crop and only using targeted, softer products when needed throughout the growing season.