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If you would like to find out more about the partnership opportunities available with Berries Australia, please contact Jen Rowling | email@example.com or visit www.berries.net.au DISCLAIMER: Whilst every care has been taken in the preparation of this journal, the information contained is necessarily of a general nature and should not be relied upon as a substitute for specific advice. The advice and opinions in the articles published in Australian Berry Journal are essentially those of contributors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Berries Australia or the Editor. The advice is at the reader’s own risk, and no responsibility is accepted for the accuracy of the material presented. Inclusion of an advertisement in this publication does not necessarily imply endorsement of the product, company or service by Berries Australia or the Editor. Horticulture Innovation Australia Limited (Hort Innovation) makes no representations and expressly disclaims all warranties (to the extent permitted by law) about the accuracy, completeness, or currency of information in Australian Berry Journal. Reliance on any information provided by Hort Innovation is entirely at your own risk. Hort Innovation is not responsible for, and will not be liable for, any loss, damage, claim, expense, cost (including legal costs) or other liability arising in any way, including from any Hort Innovation or other person’s negligence or otherwise from your use or non-use of Australian Berry Journal or from reliance on information contained in the material or that Hort Innovation provides to you by any other means. Copyright © Horticulture Innovation Australia Limited 2020 Copyright subsists in Australian Berry Journal. Horticulture Innovation Australia Limited (Hort Innovation) owns the copyright, other than as permitted under the Copyright ACT 1968 (Cth). Australian Berry Journal (in part or as a whole) cannot be reproduced, published, communicated or adapted without the prior written consent of Hort Innovation. Any request or enquiry to use the Australian Berry Journal should be addressed to: Communications Manager, Hort Innovation, Level 7 | 141 Walker Street, North Sydney 2060, Australia | E: firstname.lastname@example.org | P: 02 8295 2300
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16 Berries: The bold and the beautiful
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26 Get SWD ready
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Executive Director's Report Rachel Mackenzie | 0408 796 199 | email@example.com If you have historically relied on backpackers, then think seriously about where your workers will come from. Do not rely solely on information from labour-hire companies as I have heard numerous examples where they don’t admit there is a shortage until the day that they can’t get workers. The recent Ernst & Young report commissioned by Hort Innovation predicted a seasonal worker shortfall of about 26,000 across the country.
I am looking forward to the day when my column doesn’t have to start with a mention of COVID–19. I am writing this as Victoria is emerging from lockdown and South Australia is managing a flare-up. I hope that the cases remain contained and we can continue to see borders opening and workplaces across the country operate under semi-normal conditions. The SA flare-up highlights that as a sector we must remain ever vigilant and on top of our legal workplace health and safety obligations.
In October, Federal Agriculture Minister David Littleproud announced that the Australian government would allow visas for up to 22,000 workers from the Pacific to enter the country to work in Australian agriculture. That sounds good in theory, but there are a number of practical barriers to them actually entering the country including State quarantine arrangements and arrivals caps. It is encouraging to hear that the Tasmanian government will subsidise hotel quarantine for Pacific workers and the Queensland government is actively trialling on-farm quarantine options. That said, progress is painfully slow in NSW and Victoria and if state governments cannot get a cost-effective option on the table in relation to the Pacific workers, then we need to start investigating other options.
The impacts of COVID-19 stretch beyond the WH&S as the issue of worker shortages is not going away. We know and understand the significant anxiety growers across Australia are feeling as backpackers head home and alternatives are limited. I am hearing depressing stories from across the sector with some growers losing up to $2 million this season as they have not been able to get pickers.
It deeply concerns me that there are still many politicians who don’t actually see this as a real issue. It seems ridiculous that we have to impress on every level of government how important it is to actually feed people and that this will be compromised if we cannot sort out the labour issue. To that end, if you are having difficulties sourcing labour, let me know or even better, let your local members – both State and Federal – know as well.
Berries Australia, along with other advocacy bodies, are working hard across all levels of government to get some workable options on the table. Whilst ideally more Australians should work in the sector, this is a long-term strategy not a short-term solution. That said, we do urge all members to be open minded about employing locals. I also urge all of you to do your own due diligence about worker availability bearing in mind that backpacker numbers have more than halved since this time last year.
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On a more positive note, it seems that consumption of berries has remained relatively stable and unlike other commodities, we are less impacted by the Chinese restrictions on Australian produce. You can read more about what has happened to sales of strawberries, raspberries and blackberries in the last year on PAGE 18 in the article â€˜Berries: The Bold & the Beautifulâ€™ by Melanie Norris from Nielsen with data sourced from the Harvest to Home service.
It has been a big year for the Berries Australia team, and I would like to thank all of the IDOs, Jane Richter, Wendy Morris and Jen Rowling for their amazing efforts throughout the year. We have successfully held regular meetings for all of the PIBs and Berries Australia, managed four online AGMs and have delivered regular updates to members through The Burst newsletter and this journal. Maintaining the website and ensuring that it remains a one-stop-shop for COVID-19 related resources has been an enormous task. I am very proud that Berries Australia received a Highly Commended Award in the NSW SafeWork Awards for all of our COVID-19 related resources SEE PAGE 16.
For blueberry growers, there is an update on this seasonâ€™s marketing activities that are funded by the voluntary levy. This year, there continues to be a sizeable investment in marketing and promotions designed to grow consumption of fresh blueberries in Australia. I would urge any of you who grow blueberries but are yet to make any financial contribution to these activities, to check the instructions on PAGE 38 for how you can start to pay your fair share of levy.
I would also like to thank all of the committee members across the sector who have embraced video-conferencing and given up their time for the betterment of the industry. Finally, I would like to thank all the members of the individual PIBs; your membership is the backbone of Berries Australia and enables us to move the industry forward.
For Rubus growers, the new Marketing Manager Belinda Van Schaik has provided an overview of the plans for this season on PAGE 94 including the new creative that will be used throughout the campaign.
If you are not a member please consider joining your peak industry body so that we can continue to deliver products such as this journal and lobby on your behalf. I am always just a phone call away so please call me on 0408 796 199.
If you have any ideas, or have any great pictures from your Rubus farm that you can share to use in the social media elements of the plan, please send them through to Belinda at Hort innovation on Belinda.VanSchaik@ horticulture.com.au
On behalf of the whole team at Berries Australia I wish you all a safe and berry merry Christmas!
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Chairman's Report Peter McPherson | 0418 666 651 | firstname.lastname@example.org One of our goals for 2021 is to look at ways to streamline our structure whilst ensuring that the PIBs continue to have a strong voice.
Welcome to the final Australian Berry Journal for 2020. There is no denying that this has been a year like no other and the challenges in relation to worker supply are significant and ongoing. Rest assured that the Berries Australia team is working hard to find solutions.
Whilst obviously COVID-19 related challenges are our main focus in the short-term, as a sector we need to really start looking at reputational issues. For example, the industry has a poor reputation in the Coffs region around environmental management and in the Sunshine Coast the industry has an image problem when it comes to worker treatment. These reputational issues make it harder for us to be successful in our advocacy to government and as we have seen in Coffs, can lead to some policy decisions that are detrimental to industry.
Berries Australia held its second AGM in October and it is very pleasing that Berries Australia has been operating effectively for two years. It was a bit of a gamble bringing three organisations and industries with different cultures together, but I think it canâ€™t be denied that all three categories have benefitted from the shared approach.
As a sector we need to take real action to not only lift standards but also to demonstrate to the community that we are serious about managing these issues. The Berries Australia Board has given Rachel and the team the go-ahead to set up a good practice committee and start exploring ways to actually address some of these issues. I know most of you try to do the right thing but until everyone in the industry can demonstrate they are compliant, we will all be dragged down by the actions of the few.
Without Berries Australia, many growers would not have had access to the vital COVID-19 information provided by the team and publications such as this would not exist, as the individual Peak Industry Bodies (PIBs) do not have the capacity to produce these resources on their own. The Berries Australia model also allows us to manage our own industry development program which brings enormous benefits to growers around the country. In terms of advocacy we have been able to engage with the major State based working groups on COVID-19 due to our national footprint. We also leverage our voice through membership of the National Farmers Federation Hort Council and strong connections to the Australian Fresh Produce Alliance.
As a final note, I would like to remind all of you that even if you use labour-hire ultimately you are responsible for the health and wellbeing of your workers as well as ensuring they are being paid properly. In this environment of worker shortages it is more important than ever to make sure you are fully compliant.
The Berries Australia Board is very aware that a lot of time and energy is spent on managing committees and participating in consultation processes such as SIAPs for each of the three categories.
My best wishes go out to all berry growers hoping you have a plentiful harvest this summer despite all the obstacles.
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President's Report Jonathan Shaw | 0418 758 268 | email@example.com It is inevitable that growers who stick with old practices whilst their peers improve cannot expect to maintain profitability and some will exit the industry.
In October, the berry industry had its biggest domestic retail sales period ever and the largest volume ever for blueberries. It’s the first time that we have seen sales of blueberries in a 4-week period overtake strawberries as the most valuable berry product.
For our farm, our greatest improvements right now are coming from varieties which are larger and cheaper to pick and which attract premium pricing. Direct retail sales, farm gate sales and other methods which avoid marketer and wholesaler costs (which can represent all of a grower’s gross margin in peak times), along with organics and other value adds, increasingly have to be part of the mix for smaller growers. I’m keen to hear from members about how the ABGA can help you in these areas.
Whilst it is not expected this will continue for an extended period, 5 years ago it would have been unthinkable that blueberries would catch up to strawberries as blueberries were considered a luxury item and not an everyday fruit. And those record sales occurred despite COVID–19, last year’s drought and a labour shortage.
We recently held our AGM and a comprehensive report was sent out to all members reporting on the past year, our achievements and our financial situation. If you have not seen the report, contact Wendy on firstname.lastname@example.org for a copy.
This is a great achievement for the blueberry industry. There will be many factors at play which are driving blueberry consumption – prices are lower, varieties and quality are better and marketing and promotion by the ABGA is better. And you can add to that the power, determination and professionalism of the larger growers and marketers to increase supply and sales.
It has been very difficult this year for the Association to connect with our members, to share information and new developments, and to listen and try to assist our members to address the challenges we all face. The committee is aware that this lack of connection can make the Association appear less involved with members.
For many growers, the increased supply and lower prices comes with increasing pressure on profitability. As I noted in an article in the ABGA journal a few years ago, our industry is undergoing change and is now in a phase which occurs to all commodities as their industry matures; there is consolidation and increasing market domination by a few larger growers / grower groups.
I am hopeful that with borders re-opening and the prospects of a vaccine seeming likely, 2021 will be a year when we can re-activate workshops, run farm tours and hold the annual conference so the Association can more actively assist members to improve their farming businesses. I expect we will be in a position to make an announcement about our 2021 program for activities involving members in January.
For smaller growers in a quickly maturing industry, there are still paths to sustainable profitability. Constant improvement is essential to the success of individual growers – constant improvement in our agronomy, varieties, yield, picking rates, quality, flavour and post-harvest management.
Best regards to all for a safe and prosperous summer.
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President's Report Richard McGruddy | 0408 763 804 | email@example.com State and Federal governments which protects growers if there is a biosecurity incursion that impacts their industry specifically and covers the cost of eradication where possible. Think of it like an industry insurance policy!
Whilst this has been an extremely challenging year for growers, it is some consolation that RABA as an association is in the best position it has been in for years with energetic new members and some clear goals for 2021.
Please rest assured there is absolutely no intention to increase the levy, just how it is allocated. The RABA Committee will present a number of options to Rubus levy payers and there will be multiple opportunities to have your say as no changes can be made without the clear support of industry. The main purpose of this exercise is to make sure we can repay our debt to government and protect growers from future biosecurity incidents. We will be putting on a number of information webinars and sharing information widely to ensure everyone is well informed.
The creation of Berries Australia has enabled the Rubus industry to engage our own Industry Development Officer (IDO) and we have been able to proactively engage with Hort Innovation regarding future research and development (R&D) needs and the marketing program. The Industry Development and Communications project means that Rubus growers get tailored, relevant information through this journal and The Burst e-newsletter. From my perspective, the detailed information and support provided through the COVID-19 pandemic has been invaluable and it is nice to think that we are delivering something tangible for our members. I know the Berries Australia team and IDOs have been working extremely hard to keep us up-to-date and also to lobby governments at all levels around the worker shortages.
Please contact Rachel on 0408 796 199 or firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like more information in the meantime. I know how concerning the workforce shortages are to many of you as I am feeling them on my own farm. It is really important that you let the team at Berries Australia know about the challenges you are facing so we can continue to raise this issue with all levels of government. I would also encourage you to make both your State and Federal parliament representatives directly aware of your challenges with sourcing labour.
One of our main objectives for this year is to review the current statutory levy as discussed in the last edition of this journal. We are fortunate to have significant funds within Hort Innovation to support R&D and to invest in marketing activities, but we need to set up a mechanism to pay for our commitments under the Plant Health Australia Emergency Plant Pest Response Deed (EPPRD).
I would like to thank those committee members who stood down at the AGM and also welcome our new committee members. Best wishes for a safe festive season.
For those of you who are not aware, the Plant Health EPPRD is a legal arrangement between industry and
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Chairman's Report Simon Dornauf | 0408 681 206 | email@example.com horticultural crops in Australia, the pool of reliable workers available is continually diminishing and there is concern that this will lead to an increase in poaching of labour. The pool is simply not big enough for us all to draw from at this point in time, and we can only hope that a solution to this problem can be found within a reasonable time frame, all things going well in terms of keeping the pandemic under control. It’s more important than ever that we work together as a combined berry industry to ensure that our labour sourcing issues are continually reviewed, addressed and communicated to State and Federal government. Rachel Mackenzie has been persistently lobbying for industry and will continue to do so on our behalf. And as growers, we need to work together to share solutions to the labour problem, as opposed to just looking after ourselves.
As we head into the Festive Season and the end of what has been an incredibly challenging year, it’s a good opportunity to take stock of 2020. We can be thankful to government for being proactive and effective in tackling the pandemic to reduce the number of deaths and pressure on the health system. That said, berry growers across the country are probably kept awake at night by the numerous challenges COVID–19 has caused their business. In my view, the biggest challenge for industry moving into 2021 will be the labour shortage. The re-start of the Seasonal Workers Program (SWP) has been a life saver for growers in some states, but the upfront costs and complexities associated with establishing the program will make it difficult for many businesses to recruit workers this way. Despite this, there is bound to be a major increase in interest and uptake of the SWP program, so the Australian government will need to ensure that sufficient resources are available for the Department of Education, Skills and Employment (DESE) to account for the surge in demand.
On a positive note, we are all a lot more tech savvy! Who would’ve thought that we would be participating in our AGMs via Zoom?! Thank you to Rachel and the team at Berries Australia who were responsible for rolling out four Zoom-powered AGM’s over two days which is no mean feat! From an SAI perspective we said farewell to Daniel Rolek who resigned from his position as a Victorian representative on the committee and we thank him for his time and input into Strawberries Australia. We welcome Dominic Spirli as the new Victorian representative. Next steps for SAI include the development of a strategic plan and review of the current Constitution.
For the strawberry industry, the concerns around labour obviously extend to our propagators who rely on a huge workforce to harvest and distribute plants to fruit growers across the country. Runner growers in the Stanthorpe region in Queensland are currently doing everything they can to identify as many sources of labour as possible in anticipation of the harvest period in March/April for Winter production, including a push for local options. As one of the most labour-intensive
A strong spring has helped prepare the summer strawberry crop for a great start and we wish growers in the Southern parts of the country all the best for their season. And on behalf of SAI, I’d like to wish everyone a very happy Festive Season and best wishes for a prosperous, pandemic free and labour abundant New Year!
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Victorian Strawberry Industry Development Committee
Berry Industry Development Officer, Strawberries – Victoria & South Australia Dr Angela Atkinson | 0408 416 538 | firstname.lastname@example.org DHHS are also conducting surveillance COVID-19 testing in Victorian agricultural businesses employing a seasonal workforce throughout this growing season. Not all businesses will be tested, but any that are contacted by DHHS must allow them to come and test at a time convenient for the business. This may only be once during the season, as they are planning to test around 10% of the seasonal workforce in Victoria.
At the time of writing, many of the COVID–19 restrictions that have created challenges over the last few months have been lifted in Victoria. With well over two weeks of no new cases of coronavirus in the state, Victorians are now free to move around the state, and most businesses have been able to reopen, with COVIDSafe Plans in place. There are limits on gatherings, which means workshops and field days are still restricted, as we have been advised by the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), but we are hoping that will change in the new year. Interstate borders will soon open to Victorians, and a recent outbreak in South Australia will hopefully be controlled by the time this edition is published. Unfortunately, as stranded Australians return from overseas hotspots, there will still be a risk of outbreaks. In Victoria, all businesses must have a COVIDSafe Plan in place to operate, and this will be the case for the foreseeable future. If you haven’t put this in place the plan template and guidance can be found at https://bit.ly/VIC-CovidSafeplan.
In South Australia, there is no formal requirement for horticulture businesses to have COVID plans in place, but physical distancing (1.5m apart, 1 person per 4 m2) and hygiene procedures apply. The Seasonal Jobs SA website (https://bit.ly/SA-SeasonalWork) provides a toolkit of documents and advice for the industry. It is recommended that workers sign a personal disclosure form before commencing employment, and a daily declaration form at the end of each shift. Templates for these are available on the website. One of the many challenges continues to be shortage of labour. Both federal and state governments are working to assist businesses to source employees, including a restart of the Seasonal Worker Program and Pacific Labour Schemes, the national Harvest Trail service, and a number of state-government based initiatives. The Victorian government’s Working for Victoria platform has around 80,000 people registered looking for employment, many of whom are interested in agricultural work. Businesses can register and post employment opportunities at https://bit.ly/VIC-workers. A webinar was held at the end of October demonstrating the platform to berry growers.
In addition to a COVIDSafe Plan, businesses must keep records of daily staff temperature checks, an attendance register for anyone who visits the business for 15 minutes or longer, and a sign-in register for workers which also records a daily declaration that they have no symptoms and have had no contact with a positive case. If you need help with any of these measures, please contact me. Many Victorian berry growers have been pro-active and taken advantage of the free and confidential OHS Essentials program which is funded through Worksafe, to ensure that they are compliant with the COVIDSafe requirements. Any business can join by going to https://bit.ly/VIC-OHS and registering. The program gives businesses three visits from an OHS consultant over the year, and advice is free and confidential. We have had great feedback from the growers who have used the program.
Aside from COVID-19, the weather is looking good, and the strawberries are beautiful. Hopefully with the reopening of the hospitality industry and the potential for a ‘COVID normal’ holiday season, demand for our berries will be strong. Stay safe.
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Berry Industry Development Officer, Rubus & Tasmania Claire McCrory | 0434 974 653 | email@example.com Many growers are also carefully managing their harvest to make the most of available labour, prioritising high yielding and high value crops to ensure the greatest returns, quality and picking efficiencies.
The spring weather has shown its usual unpredictable nature with heavy rains leading into some very sunny weather with temperatures rising to what growers would expect in the summer. Octoberâ€™s rainfall was 23% higher than average for Tasmania, making it the state's wettest October since 2016. In general, these conditions didnâ€™t seem to hamper seasonal maintenance schedules with reports of tunnel preparation, planting and pollination all on schedule. Many growers have also mentioned that fruit set was very good with the warmer weather helping fruit development.
To help address some of the main concerns raised by Tasmanian growers, FGT & Berries Australia held an online Berry Season Preparation Workshop lining up a range of interesting speakers and topics reflecting the concerns of growers approaching the season in a pandemic. The workshop was a success and we look forward to collaborating with Rural Alive and Well to help growers access important support resources and training. Expression of interest forms will appear shortly in The Burst and our regular Fruit e-News. Following the release of the Rubus Strategic Agrichemical Review Process (SARP) report, FGT & Berries Australia held an industry consultation workshop to gain grower input - an important event as this review is only undertaken every four years. The workshop discussed the report findings and was an opportunity for grower feedback of current permits and input into the prioritisation for future minor use registration of chemical and alternative products.
Strawberries began harvest in the second week of October and field strawberries in the south of the state following shortly after. Tunnel raspberries and blackberries are set to begin picking in the last week of November followed by blueberries in mid-late December. The main concern for Tasmanian growers is still access to labour and the berry sector has been working closely with Fruit Growers Tasmania and the Tasmanian Government to deliver a Seasonal Labour Strategy to help ease this pressure. These activities include streamlining the transit of Seasonal Worker Program workers from interstate, campaigning to encourage greater participation from local workers, developing confirmed pathways for new workers from the Pacific Islands and Timor Leste and developing a transport scheme to support people with limited or no other transport options to participate in seasonal work.
Unsurprisingly, COVID-19 safety remains a key focus for the Tasmanian fruit industry and Safe Farming Tasmania have increased their resourcing to help growers review and improve their COVID-19 safety plans. FGT and Safe Farming Tasmania would also like to acknowledge and thank the Tasmanian berry growers, particularly Hillwood Berries, for their help with the development of the wider industry safety material. Over summer, we look forward to supporting our berry growers through their busiest time of the year and we wish all growers a productive and safe berry season.
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Berry Industry Development Officer, Blueberries & New South Wales Melinda Simpson | 0447 081 765 | firstname.lastname@example.org Since the last edition, the findings from the Strategic Agrichemical Review Process (SARP) for the blueberry industry have been released. This report was funded by Hort Innovation using the blueberry R&D levy to investigate the pest problem, agrichemical usage and pest management alternatives for the blueberry industry. Following its release, we held a meeting with industry representatives to review the report and highlight key areas where further work needs to be done and agree new chemical priorities. Thanks so much to all of you that were involved in this meeting and for your valued knowledge and thoughts in this area.
It has been just over a year since we commenced the National Berry IDO/ communications project and wow what a year it has been, one that none of us would have predicted! Although COVID-19 has put a hold on a lot of the extension activities we had planned, I think that all of the IDO’s have done a great job in a difficult situation. Some of the highlights from the past year for me are: • W orking with OzGroup Co-op to hold the annual Bee Pollination Expo just prior to lockdown;
Finally, I would like to introduce you to Dr Jay Anderson who has recently started as a Plant Pathologist on the NSW North Coast. Jay has worked with farmers, peak industry bodies, and colleagues in university and agriculture departments for over 20 years to solve disease issues of sub-tropical and tropical horticulture crops. She recently joined the Centre for Organics Research; a joint initiative between NSW Department of Primary Industries and Southern Cross University. Jay looks forward to working with her NSW DPI colleagues, agronomists and blueberry growers to develop means to better manage rust and other diseases of blueberry.
• w orking with the growers involved in the Clean Coastal Catchments program to improve water quality in the NSW marine park; • d eveloping the Reducing spray drift in blueberries Fact sheet; and most importantly, • w orking with all the great growers and companies in the berry industry. Thank you for always welcoming me onto your farm and taking the time to discuss important issues so that the industry can ‘grow’ together. As we start to wind up the southern highbush season and start on the Rabbiteye season in NSW, the labour shortage continues to grow. As borders start to open and other horticulture crops come into season, it is getting harder and harder to get enough pickers. SafeWork NSW have been conducting compliance checks on farms in the Coffs Harbour area to check that growers are ensuring the well-being of their staff and that social distancing and adequate hygiene measure are in place. The feedback so far regarding berry growers has been very positive so please continue to keep up the great work. As always, if you need any help or have any questions please don’t hesitate to contact me.
Dr Jay Anderson, Plant Pathologist Photo credit: NSW DPI
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Berry Industry Development Officer, Strawberries & Queensland Bron Ford | 0438 752 177 | email@example.com line labour-marketing campaigns including #pickqld (a state Government initiative) and the #harvestarmy implemented by the Granite Belt Growers Association.
I think we are all breathing a collective sigh that 2020 is nearing an end. It has been a mammoth effort this year across all berry businesses in Queensland with most winterproduced strawberries coming to an end in October, Granite Belt (temperate) strawberry production kicking off around the same time and Rubus and blueberry production hitting its peak leading up to Christmas.
On a much brighter note, the Chevallum Strawbfest was once again a great success. The festival has been running for the last 35 years with strong support from the Queensland strawberry industry and this year needed to “pivot” and offer a different way to connect strawberries with the Sunshine Coast community. The “Great Strawberry Bonanza” was a program of activities made possible due to the generous donations of strawberries from the following companies: Incholm Berries, Strawberry Fields, A&A Juicy Berries and Suncoast Harvest.
COVID-19 has continued to raise challenges particularly with the ever-changing status of the Queensland border. At the time of writing this article, the rules have changed 19 times since March 2020 and the doors still remain shut to Victoria and now South Australia.
Congratulations also go to the winners from the 2020 Queensland Strawberry Growers’ Association Dinner and Awards night. The event, which was postponed due to COVID-19 lockdown earlier in the year, was a great occasion for everyone to relax, discuss the ups and downs of the season and network with other growers as well as those from the broader industry involved in all aspects of strawberry production. SEE PAGE 72 for more about the award winners.
A class exemption exists for farmers and those that work in the agribusiness supply chain that commenced in late August 2020. This exemption allows for people based anywhere in NSW (including Sydney) or QLD to cross the border for agricultural related work. It does not apply to seasonal workers and does not permit farmers and agribusiness workers to enter Queensland for any other purpose. The full details of the information required to access this exemption can be found at the COVID-19 Hub on our website www.berries.net.au
Finally, on a personally sad note, this will be my last update as the Queensland Berry IDO. I will be returning to a role within the Regional Economic Development team at the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries based at Gatton. It has been an absolute pleasure working with the teams at QSGA and Berries Australia to implement activities across Queensland.
The challenges of managing a business during the COVID-19 pandemic continue with significant labour shortages being felt throughout Queensland. A number of initiatives are in place to attract workers and address the shortfall.
I will be forever grateful to everyone for being so welcoming and opening up their farms for visits and I am confident that the thorough recruitment process will result in a great replacement that can support the industry through 2021 and beyond.
These include Queensland re-starting the Seasonal Worker Program and Pacific Labour Scheme, and allowing on-farm quarantine (subject to approval), Back to Work Agriculture Incentive Scheme and on-
I N D U S T R Y
Aileen Reid, Berry Industry Development Team, Strawberries & Western Australia WABerryIDO@berries.net.au Victoria, presumably due to lockdown and a depressed food service industry, underperformed as a market. South Australia is coming in a bit earlier. Export was down due to a lack of air freight – instead of two flights a day there was only around one a week. Freight costs were up two to threefold which suppressed orders and had a flow on effect to the local market as fruit normally exported was sold domestically.
Well it seems that retirement wasn’t for me and I am back working for the WA berry industry along with Helen Newman. I am really pleased to be back on board and look forward to catching up with everyone again. From a strawberry perspective it was an underwhelming season for WA with most growers in the Wanneroo to Gingin region finishing up a month early due to labour shortages, which are also being felt by the blueberry growers.
Despite all the problems of this season, it doesn’t seem as though many growers will drop out of production. There may be more second year crops. Unfortunately, more Fronteras may be planted in the absence of anything better. Growers are reportedly having variable success with Red Rhapsody so that doesn’t seem to be the answer either. Fortuna presents too many problems for most growers in terms of losses. Maybe it’s back to Festival.
The tight labour market across horticulture has resulted in pickers demanding more money and asking for additional benefits such as lunch and after work drinks. I’m also hearing stories of workers being poached. It is more important than ever that growers are on top of their workplace health and safety obligations and don’t cut corners.
Nothing unusual in terms of pests and disease this season except from a bit more demand for IPM as a result of problems controlling Western Flower Thrips. Issues with runner quality resulted in significant losses for some growers.
As my technical focus is strawberries, varieties remain a major issue for WA. Fronteras has been very popular due to its appearance and high yield, but on the taste, and more especially, the texture front there have been issues. While early fruit are large, as the season progresses it goes soft and watery. It doesn’t travel well, which for a state that exports such a large proportion of its fruit, is a problem. It has been the source of numerous rejections and undoubtedly hasn’t helped prices or the reputation of strawberries with the consumer. Growers try to pick earlier to assist with the transport issue, but this can adversely affect flavour. Some growers tried to manipulate quality by trialing irrigation and nutritional regimes, but it would seem there has been little improvement.
At this stage the southwest growers seem to be going well, fruit supply has come in strongly and although there are still labour shortages most growers are using the Pacific Labour Scheme or Seasonal Worker Program, and the two plane loads of workers coming in December will be warmly welcomed.
I am available to assist WA growers on a part time basis with our new member — Helen Newman. You can contact me on 0467 783 981 and all emails sent to WABerryIDO@berries.net.au will be received by both myself and Helen.
WA faced more competition from Queensland this year due to their late start and good weather patterns sustaining production for longer.
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I N D U S T R Y
Please welcome Helen Newman to the team Born in Perth WA, Helen has spent most of her working career in the WA agricultural industry. Her interest in agriculture and land management was first sparked by visits to a family farm in Watheroo, 200km north of Perth in the WA wheatbelt. An on-campus farm at her high school that taught animal husbandry and horticulture further solidified her interest. ABC’s Landline, Totally Wild (an educational nature show), and Hey Hey it’s Saturday! (she likes a good laugh) were her favourite TV shows growing up.
Helen’s roles in the Department included Waterwise as a farm irrigation management trainer, citrus industry development officer, vegetable industry research and development officer, and communications manager for the State NRM Office. This interesting and varied career with the Department was put on hold in 2015 when Helen decided to spend more time with her son before he started full-time school. During her break, Helen took the opportunity to pursue her interest in landscape design, and completed the Certificate IV and Diploma of Landscape Design, while working part-time with a landscape designer and at Dawson’s Garden World (retail nursery). “Working at a nursery gave me excellent insight into the nursery industry and the biosecurity challenges posed by nurseries and home gardeners.”
After leaving school, Helen completed a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Science at Murdoch University. This was a broad degree that covered many facets of science and the environment that impact on agricultural and horticultural production including climate, water resources, soils, plant nutrition, genetics, and ecology.
Helen currently works with South Metropolitan TAFE, teaching Certificate IV and Diploma Horticulture students about soils, report writing, and estimating, quoting, and tendering. She also works with WA Citrus as their Biosecurity Representative, keeping WA citrus growers up to date with biosecurity issues. Helen will maintain her role with WA Citrus as she takes on the WA Strawberry Industry Development Officer role (part-time) alongside industry veteran Aileen Reid. “Aileen and I have worked together in the past. She has a wealth of knowledge and very good relationships in the strawberry industry. I look forward to working with her again and sharing my skills for the advancement of the berry industry.”
With a strong interest in agriculture, Helen joined the Department of Agriculture and Food as a Development Officer straight out of university in 2001. Here, Helen worked across the Horticulture and Natural Resource Management (NRM) fields, helping growers to improve on-farm practices through better irrigation, nutrition, cultural management, and crop forecasting.
I love it when I am able to help people produce a better crop. I love learning new things and sharing my knowledge and helping others improve. It’s a real buzz.
Both Helen & Aileen can be reached via WABerryIDO@berries.net.au Helen Newman | 0428 335 724 Aileen Reid | 0467 783 981 Image credit: Department of Primary Industries & Regional Development, WA
2020–21 ASSOCIATION COMMITTEES
Jonathan Shaw Mullingar Pastoral Co, QLD
Simon Dornauf Hillwood Berries, TAS
Richard McGruddy Queensland Berries, QLD
0418 758 268 firstname.lastname@example.org
0408 681 206 email@example.com
0408 763 804 firstname.lastname@example.org
Stephen Thandi Oz Group Co-Op, NSW
Jamie Michael Ti Produce Marketing, WA
Roberto Barajas Driscoll’s, VIC
Anthony Poiner Smart Berries, NSW
Adrian Schultz Immaburra Gardens, QLD
Rowan Francis Blueberry Hill Berries, VIC
Andrew Bell Mountain Blue, NSW
Miffy Gilbert AusBerry Farmers, VIC
Kate Sutherland Burlington Berries, TAS
OTHER COMMITTEE MEMBERS
OTHER COMMITTEE MEMBERS
OTHER COMMITTEE MEMBERS
Cedric Senn Sennberries, VIC
Neil Handasyde Handasyde Strawberries, WA
Justin Hundle Kaizen Operations, NSW
Christian Parsons Costa (NSW)
Nathan Baronio Eastern Colour, QLD
Anthony Poiner Smart Berries, NSW
John Simonetta Perfection Fresh, NSW
Dominic Spirli Spirli Strawberries, VIC
Adam Bianchi Oz Group Co-Op, NSW
Malcolm Parker AF Parker & Sons, SA
Andrew Terry Tasmanian Berries, TAS Christian Parsons Costa, NSW
Being a member of your association is an important way to support the growth and development of your industry. There are a range of benefits — only available to members — that are not funded by the national levy system. Visit www.berries.net.au to find out more. For any general membership enquiries, please contact Wendy Morris 0491 751 123 | email@example.com
I N D U S T R Y
Berries Australia wins ‘Highly Commended’at 2020 SafeWork NSW Awards Berries Australia was nominated in Category 2 for our response to the COVID-19 pandemic. This was in recognition of the extraordinary work carried out by the team across the country to try to ensure all berry growers had easy access to the very latest information required to manage their business through these unprecedented times. Led by Executive Director Rachel Mackenzie, the team of Industry Development Officers (IDO) and communication professionals rapidly stepped in to manage the flow of relevant information from the wider world directly to each grower through our range of communication tools, whether they be a small family business or a large corporate farm entity.
SafeWork NSW’s annual work health and safety awards were announced on 29 October at an online event, marking the conclusion of Safe Work Month 2020.
“We felt it was our role to take the diverse array of information that was on the table for members, basically collate it, curate it and communicate it.”
The awards attracted an impressive 610 entries with 16 award recipients selected in categories representing small and large businesses throughout NSW. Government agencies and member organisations were also acknowledged. This year businesses and organisations were recognised for their efforts putting workplace systems in place and supporting members to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Berries Australia was particularly commended for the tools produced – like the COVID-19 Berry Farm Checklist – which were shared to help growers work their way through the minefield of risk assessments and new processes that the pandemic brought with it.
Eight outstanding and eight highly commended award recipients were announced across two categories. Category 1: Outstanding work health and safety response to the changed working environment due to COVID-19 This category recognises excellence with outstanding awards, and also acknowledges the efforts and achievements of finalists with highly commended awards.
“I would like to give a big shout out to my team – I did not do this on my own, and actually having IDO’s on the ground around Australia meant that we were getting really up-to-date feedback on what the issues and concerns of growers were.
Category 2: Outstanding work health and safety support to members in the changed working environment due to COVID-19 This category recognises excellence in unions and industry associations with outstanding awards, and also acknowledges the efforts and achievements with highly commended awards.
So that feedback loop was short and we were able to get information back out to them and allay their anxieties and make sure that they can keep doing their job which is growing great fresh produce for Australians,” said Rachel.
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NO QUEENSLAND FRUIT FLY IN YOUR AREA? HAVE A PREPAREDNESS PLAN
I N D U S T R Y
Berries: The Bold & the Beautiful Melanie Norris, Associate Director, Nielsen Fresh Industry Lead For the past few years fresh berries have been steadily increasing their volume share of the fruit category, since October 2018 berries have gone from representing 5.7% of total fruit to 6.6%. From smoothies to snacks, breakfast to dessert, fresh berries are an easy and delicious treat popular with both adults and children. Berries also top the fruit category in dollar share.
blueberries and blackberries. Strawberries saw the highest average price increase (+5.5%) of all berry segments and this was reflected in the -7.0% volume decline from low affluence buyers. Declines in volume sales came from a reduction in purchase frequency of households across all demographics apart from adult couples 35-59 years of age.
Since the onset of COVID-19, the take-home fruit category has seen volume declines in contrast to vegetables; however, berries have held steady at 0.4% volume growth, while dollar sales grew by 6.9%. Blackberries and blueberries were the key growth drivers with increases in buying households and frequency of purchase.
Although strawberries are more popular with families, there are opportunities to diversify the consumer base by attracting more adult households; perhaps continuing with a more premium offer that is clearly differentiated in-store. Strawberries have a relatively high percentage (20%) of buyers who purchase strawberries exclusively and do not cross-shop the berry category. Encouraging these shoppers to trial other varieties through crosspromotion could help these shoppers increase their berry repertoire. SEE CHART 1 ON PAGE 19
Over the past 12 months, the average price of berries increased by 6.5%; while this is a notable price rise, it is less than the average fruit price increase of 10.7%. Major supermarkets continue to be a stronghold for fresh berries with over 79% of the category sales and were the main contributors to category growth.
Raspberries After a hugely successful 2019, raspberry sales have slowed somewhat and in the last year, raspberries recorded a below average dollar sales increase (+2.6% versus year ago), while volume sales remained relatively stable (-0.8%), with a modest average price per kg increase of 3.5%. While sales were strong in the second half of 2019, sales were significantly lower in late summer and autumn 2020 driven in part by higher prices and the impact of COVID-19. Over the past year, raspberries lost 2.7% of buying households, predominantly from adult couples 35+. This was counteracted by an increase in purchase frequency leading to the overall flat volume sales result.
A family favourite and the most popular berry type among Australian households, strawberries increased in dollar sales (+2.5% versus year ago), while volume sales declined (-2.5%), partially driven by an average price per kg increase. However, over the past three years, strawberries have been slowly losing share to
Compared to other berries, raspberries have a higher number of one-time buyers (29% in a 12-month period). The Hort Innovation Rubus marketing activity is aimed at encouraging these light buyers to purchase raspberries more often. SEE CHART 2 ON PAGE 19
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Blackberries Blackberries had a standout year. Although measured off a small base, the category grew a significant 78.9% in volume and 84.2% in dollar sales. A longer season attracted new households and increased purchase frequency for blackberries, with adult households 35+ years of age showing the biggest increase in the number of households who purchase and all other demographic groups purchasing blackberries more often.
Whether stemming from a need to limit time in-store and/or safety, shoppers are purchasing more prepacked than ever before; berries also lend themselves to online shopping, which is a growth channel for the fresh industry. As e-commerce is currently flourishing under COVID-19 driven changes, promoting berries in this channel is an opportunity for growth. Cross-shopping continues to benefit the berry industry, with households purchasing more than only one berry type contributing to 93% of total berry dollar sales. Continued cross-promotion in-store to encourage trial and repeat of raspberries and blackberries in particular, will sustain interest in this popular category.
Blackberries are currently perceived as a premium treat and as such, are skewed to higher affluence households. With greater availability, introduction of new premium quality varieties, and only a small average price increase (3.0%) blackberries saw more lower affluence households purchasing this year.
Source: Nielsen Homescan 52 weeks to 04/10/2020 www.harvesttohome.net.au/vegetables/case-studies/beyond-covid
Similar to raspberries, blackberries have a higher percentage (45%) of one-time buyers over the course of the year.
Affluence is calculated based on income, number of children and household size to provide a measure of purchasing power. Five â€˜quintileâ€™ buckets are created based on the Homescanâ„˘ panel, each representing approximately 20% of households
The Hort Innovation Rubus marketing program aims to expand consumption of raspberries and blackberries outside of key entertaining occasions as an occasional treat, by showcasing the fruit in familiar, everyday recipes as part of the upcoming marketing program (see Rubus marketing update on PAGE 94)
These data and insights were produced independently by Nielsen and shared through the Harvest to Home platform, supported through the Hort Innovation Raspberry, Blackberry and Strawberry Funds. For more insights visit www.harvesttohome.net.au.
Fresh berries are advantageously placed to benefit from the trend toward pre-packed produce which has been growing since the pandemic hit earlier this year.
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I N D U S T R Y
Anthocyanins: “berry” much more than common plant pigments Dr Michael E Netzel et al This research - ‘Naturally Nutritious’ project HN15001 was funded by Hort Innovation through the Health, Nutrition & Food Safety Fund
Anthocyanins are not only water-soluble polyphenols and plant pigments responsible for the bright colours of many fruits including berries and vegetables but may also play a significant role as health promoting food ingredients1. The evidence is promising from animal trials, but significant further clinical research with larger sample sizes is required to better understand the metabolism, bioavailability, health benefits and mechanism of action of anthocyanins and their role in human health. Clinical studies in humans are challenging due to the extensive inter-individual variation in the absorption of anthocyanins, difficulties with identifying and quantifying the extensive array of potential metabolites and a subsequent lack of evidence of optimum dosage and dose time effects. This has resulted in limited evidence to interpret the association between consumption of anthocyanin-rich foods and the incidence of cancer, cardiovascular, metabolic and other lifestyle-related diseases. In the complex food matrix, the health benefits of anthocyanins may be derived from the anthocyanin itself, or in combination with other bioactive food components. Such synergistic or antagonistic effects remain unclear and warrant continued investigation. It is important to accurately characterise the molecular structure of anthocyanin compounds in studies to assist in hypothesis development. Utilising in vitro evidence to tailor the anthocyanin intervention to the health problem or process under investigation may also add clarity to understanding mechanisms of action. Recent studies suggest a broader suite of outcome measures, or a focus on a different range of outcome measures, may enhance understanding of mechanisms of action of anthocyanins on cardiovascular and
Figure 1. Molecular structures of the six most common anthocyanins in plant-based foods.
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other health outcomes2. Current evidence suggests anthocyanin bioavailability is limited, but the evidence is also limited by the lack of reference standards, for example, for glucuronides or sulfates.
Previous simulated digestion studies showed 60–70% of anthocyanins remain bound to the plant cell walls, reducing their bioaccessibility and bioavailability6. The mean anthocyanin intake in the Australian population has been estimated at 24.2 mg/day with berries as the primary source7. However, this could easily be increased with an extra “serve” of coloured berries. Dark strawberry cultivars, for example, can have a total anthocyanin content of up to 100 mg/100 g fresh fruit8, which means that a 250 g punnet would deliver 250 mg of these bioactive plant pigments.
Over 700 anthocyanins have been found in nature3 and a range of anthocyanin metabolites may be awaiting discovery, limited by current analytical methods. Ongoing refinement and development of analytical methods is important to help identify and quantify more of these compounds. Measures of bioaccessibility and bioavailability also require standardisation to facilitate development of research quantum that can be compared, contrasted and understood from a consistent analytical standpoint.
Since the current scientific evidence suggests anthocyanin-rich fruits and vegetables are “berry” good to eat for general health, it would be wise to choose a variety of these foods to include in the diet. On top of yoghurt, tossed through salads, in thirst-quenching smoothies, or simply on their own, including more red, purple and blue fruits and vegetables is a great idea to improve dietary intake of anthocyanins.
A novel area for future research involves examining the effect of anthocyanins on the human gut microbiome. Although the microbial composition of a “gold standard” or “ideal” human microbiome for health is not well defined, there are general ideas and patterns of microbial genera and species that have been linked to lifestyle issues, for example, metabolic syndrome and obesity. There is early evidence that anthocyanins can lead to healthier microbiota through a prebiotic effect4,5.
Bon appetit! References:
Furthering understanding of the effect of well-defined anthocyanins on the gut microbiome may be far more beneficial than trying to pinpoint the mechanisms of action of anthocyanins on specific metabolic issues or health effects in isolation. Since the microbiome has widespread effects on a range of body systems, for example, cognition, mental health, CVD, neurological disease4, influencing or improving the microbial communities of the gut could improve the health of several body systems simultaneously. It is critical to learn more about the effect of microbiota on anthocyanin metabolism, as the composition of bacteria may help or hinder the further catabolism and subsequent bioavailability of anthocyanins5.
1 Wright ORL et al. 2020. Bioactive Anthocyanins in Selected Fruits – A Foodomics Approach. Reference Module in Food Sciences. https://doi.org/10.1016/B978-008-100596-5.22785-6 1. 2 Curtis PJ et al. 2019. Blueberries improve biomarkers of cardiometabolic function in participants with metabolic syndrome - results from a 6-month, double-blind, randomized controlled trial. Am. J. Clin. Nutr. 109:1535–1545. 3 Smeriglio A et al. 2016. Chemistry, pharmacology and health benefits of anthocyanins. Phytother. Res. 30:1265–1286. 4 Braga ARC et al. 2018. Bioavailability of anthocyanins: gaps in knowledge, challenges and future research. J. Food Compos. Anal. 68:31–40. 5 Jamar G. et al. 2017. Contribution of anthocyanin-rich foods in obesity control through gut microbiota interactions. Biofactors 43:507–516. 6 Padayachee A et al. 2013. Lack of release of bound anthocyanins and phenolic acids from carrot plant cell walls and model composites during simulated gastric and small intestinal digestion. Food Funct. 4:906–916. 7 Igwe EO et al. 2019. Usual dietary anthocyanin intake, sources and their association with blood pressure in a representative sample of Australian adults. J. Hum. Nutr. Diet. 32:578–590.
A stronger focus on how to measure anthocyanin absorption from the gut and a better identification and measurement of metabolites being absorbed will assist in advancing the field. This work should help in providing some dietary guidance for people in relation to the dose, format and timing of anthocyanin consumption and the types of foods to eat in combination with anthocyanins. For example, improving the gut microbiota profile may enhance its degradation activity to facilitate the release of more anthocyanins from plant cell walls.
8 Fredericks CH et al. 2013. High-anthocyanin strawberries through cultivar selection. J. Sci. Food Agric. 93:846–852. Co-Authors: Dr Olivia RL Wright, Dr Anh Dao Thi Phan, Dr Hung Trieu Hong, Dr Gabriele Netzel, Associate Professor Yasmina Sultanbawa & Dr Michael E Netzel from Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation at The University of Queensland
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I N D U S T R Y
Berry industry innovator wins Hort Innovation Churchill Fellowship award Stuart McGruddy, founder and Managing Director of south-east Queensland based ‘My Berries’, is among only sixteen Queensland recipients of the prestigious Churchill Fellowship award for 2020. Each year the Churchill Fellowship recognises and awards the commitment of individual Australians to create positive change within the community. Stuart McGruddy aims to use this award to expand his knowledge and understanding of the process between farm and manufacturer. He will travel to Serbia, France, the USA and Chile to research and investigate technologies used in the freezing of whole soft berry fruits and, in doing so, will seek to address the number of imported fruits dominating the Australian market.
He will share his knowledge with growers and manufacturers through conferences, education facilities and industry magazines – including this berry industry journal. However, due to the current pandemic, international travel is not possible. At this time, The Churchill Trust is committed to being flexible and accommodating. “With international travel on hold for some time due to COVID-19, we will be supporting our new Churchill Fellowship recipients in making good use of this additional preparation time by connecting them with some of our highly achieved Churchill Fellows who work in similar fields or project areas via virtual networking and collaboration events,” said Churchill Trust CEO, Mr Adam Davey.
There is a knowledge deficit in Australia regarding the freezing and processing of berries which Stuart believes can be met by fully understanding the techniques used in other countries. Stuart said, “I’m thrilled to be given the opportunity to speak with growers and manufacturers overseas - to better understand business relationships, logistics and the equipment used to acquire and process quality frozen fruit. In turn I aim to improve, educate, and help to create a much more efficient manufacturing process.”
My Berries was established in 2013 when Stuart and his wife Allison rose to the challenge of fighting food waste by finding a home for every berry from their local family farm. During the current COVID-19 pandemic, demand for Australian food products has been at an all-time high. My Berries recognises this and are determined to be a part of the solution that creates domestic food security by meeting that demand now and in the future.
Working with his partners at Hort Innovation, Stuart is highly motivated to learn and implement his findings. He aims to do this by driving relationships with growers and create a positive impact on the development and transformation of the industry in Australia.
My Berries was originally profiled in the Autumn 2018 edition of the Australian Blueberry Grower journal which can be found online at bit.ly/ABJ-Aut18
Photo credits: My Berries
I N D U S T R Y
How do we know if we have enough bees? Michael J. Holmes, Behaviour, Ecology and Evolution (BEE) Laboratory, University of Sydney PH16004: Securing pollination for productive agriculture: guidelines for effective pollinator management and stakeholder adoption First, it would allow growers to be more informed about how much ‘free’ pollination they are likely to receive, and therefore how many hives they should rent.
Bees are vital in ensuring the successful pollination of berry crops. While there are a variety of bees that can pollinate berries, honey bees remain the number one choice for many growers due to the relative ease of management and the sheer number that are able to be brought onto orchards during pollination.
Secondly, it has significant implications for honey bee biosecurity. As we have learned from COVID-19, disease outbreaks spread rapidly through dense populations and slower through sparse ones. Knowing the colony densities in an area will allow authorities to determine where they should focus containment efforts in the event of an outbreak of a honey bee pest or disease. And improved honey bee biosecurity can only be good for the many agricultural industries that rely on them for pollination.
But how many should we bring? How many are there in the first place? We have developed a technique to rapidly and accurately assess the density of honey bee colonies, which could be a gamechanger in informing grower decisions as well as in improving honey bee biosecurity.
We have developed a new technique that allows us to rapidly and accurately assess the honey bee colony densities in an area - with no inspection of trees required.
Letting them come to us Our technique exploits the unique mating behaviour of honey bees. Honey bees engage in ‘lek-mating’, a type of mating behaviour in which many males congregate in an area where a few females are present and compete for an opportunity to mate with one of them.
How many bees are there? Every season, commercial berry growers rent honey bee hives to ensure their crops will be adequately pollinated. This is because in the majority of agricultural landscapes, feral honey bee colony densities are rarely high enough to provide pollination services. But how do we actually know that?
In honey bees, leks form at what is known as a ‘drone congregation area’ or DCA (male honey bees are often referred to as ‘drones’).
Assessing honey bee population densities is complicated, because feral colonies are difficult to locate. They are cryptic, often nesting in trees many metres of the ground. Therefore, assessing their densities via standard ecological techniques is not practical - the time and resources it would take to inspect every hollow in every tree in a particular patch of bushland makes it impossible.
DCAs can be found anywhere that bees live. They consist of grassy areas ringed by tree line - forest clearings, sports ovals and the open space between orchard rows and bush remnants are likely spots. During spring and summer, in mid-late afternoon, many thousands of drones from all the colonies within flight range will gather at these areas in the hopes of mating with a virgin queen.
The fact remains, however, that knowing how many colonies are present in the area surrounding a grower’s orchard would be very useful, for two major reasons.
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Figure 1. A Williams balloon trap being deployed in a blueberry orchard in Corindi, NSW. Photo credit: Michael J Holmes
B E RRY Figure 2. Close-up of Williams balloon trap. Drones can be seen Figure 3. Patsavee Utaipanon, BEE Lab PhD Candidate, SUMMER 2020
inspecting the black lures, which have been soaked in queen pheromone. Photo credit: Michael J Holmes
marking drones for the flight-distance experiment. Photo credit: Michael J Holmes
How far does a drone fly?
It is this behaviour that allows us to assess their densities. We first locate likely DCAs - this is often as simple as a Google Earth search, or a leisurely drive to scout the area of interest. Once we’ve located the DCA, we launch a Williams balloon trap (Figure 1), a conical net suspended from a weather balloon. Within the net are lures soaked in queen pheromone, which tricks the drones that have gathered into thinking there is a particularly enticing queen inside the net (Figure 2). The drones are trapped in the net, where we collect them and take them back to the laboratory for analysis.
We determined drone flight distance with a simple but effective experiment (Utaipanon, Holmes and Chapman, 2019). In the winter of 2018, we stimulated a colony to produce drones by feeding it heavily. We then brought this colony to Lyndhurst, NSW, at the end of that winter. As temperatures in Lyndhurst were still very low at the time, the local bee colonies were not yet producing drones - all the male bees in the area were most likely to be from our colony. We paint-marked thousands of drones from our colony (Figures 3 & 4), and then launched the Williams trap at regular intervals of 250m in opposing directions from the colony. Every time we caught a paint-marked drone (Figure 5), we moved on to the next interval, and so on.
Once in the lab, we genetically analyse the captured drones to determine how many of them are brothers; that is, how many can be assigned as offspring of a particular queen. As there is only one queen per colony, when we know how many ‘families’ are represented in the trapped drones, we know this is a reliable estimate of the number of colonies within flight range (Utaipanon, Schaerf and Oldroyd, 2019). However, we can’t know the density of the colonies without knowing how far drones actually fly when looking for a queen to mate with. Perhaps surprisingly, prior to our research there was no reliable estimate of this seemingly simple fact.
We caught a marked drone at every interval up to 3.75km from the focal colony, but none at 4km. Thus we are confident that drones fly up to 3.75km when searching for a queen to mate with, but not as far as 4km (Utaipanon, Holmes and Chapman, 2019).
Figure 4. Michael Holmes inspects the focal colony for drones for the flight-distance experiment. Photo credit: Patsavee Utaipanon
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Figure 5. One of the paint-marked drones caught in the Williams trap during the flight-distance experiment Photo credit: Michael J Holmes
Figure 6. Area sampled by a Williams drone trap Photo credit: Patsavee Utaipanon
How can this technique improve berry pollination?
Now that we know how far drones fly, once we get the estimate of the number of colonies in the trap we can then work out colony density.
In theory, a grower could deploy a trap on their property (or several in the case of very large orchards) prior to pollination season to get an idea of how many colonies are present in the area before they bring colonies in. Feral colony densities are rarely high enough to provide adequate pollination for most crops, so for the most part, growers will still need to rent hives. However, this technique could satisfy a grower’s curiosity as to how many bees are already present and give them an idea of how much free pollination they are likely to receive.
If drones fly 3.75km, this means that all colonies within a 3.75km radius of the trap potentially sent drones to the DCA. Thanks to high-school maths, we know that a circle with a 3.75km radius has an area of 44km2 (Figure 6). So, if we caught 1000 drones, and found them to be the sons of 150 different queens, we now know that there are at least 150 colonies within a 3.75km radius a density of 3.41 colonies per square kilometre.
If you would like to know more about the BEE Lab’s research, please visit our website: bee-lab.sydney.edu.au
Acknowledgements This work is part of the Rural R&D for Profit Program ‘Securing Pollination for More Productive Agriculture’ funded by Agrifutures Australia Further reading: Utaipanon, P., Holmes, M. J. and Chapman, N. C. (2019) ‘Estimating the density of honey bee (Apis mellifera) colonies using trapped drones: area sampled and drone mating flight distance’, Apidologie 50, 578–592. Utaipanon, P., Schaerf, T. M. and Oldroyd, B. P. (2019) ‘Assessing the density of honey bee colonies at ecosystem scales’, Ecological Entomology 44, 291–304.
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I N D U S T R Y
Spotted wing drosophila: What would management look like? Dr Jessica Lye, Extension Lead, Cesar Australia MT17005 ‘Improving the biosecurity preparedness of Australian horticulture for the exotic Spotted Wing Drosophila (Drosophila suzukii)
Exploiting microclimates to keep cosy, hiding out in fruit, hitching rides to new places – this pest knows all the tricks. But do you know the tricks for its management? The spotted wing drosophila (SWD: Drosophila suzukii) is a significant horticultural pest overseas that has been spreading to a growing number of countries and regions over the past two decades, although it is not yet found in Australia. It is termed an ‘emergency plant pest’ of soft fruit industries in Australia. This means that detection of spotted wing drosophila in Australia would start the process for considering if eradication is possible, and feasible. Sometimes a new pest cannot be eradicated. In the case of spotted wing drosophila, it would need to be detected very early in the incursion for eradication to be a possibility as it is a species that is known to spread extremely quickly. Its ability to spread quickly is made possible by its lifecycle and appearance. This exotic fly is cryptic (it looks very similar to Drosophila melanogaster, the vinegar fly), it can pierce and lay eggs in unripe fruits still on the vine, and it can survive in both warm and very cold environments. Larvae stay protected from chemical controls as they feed within the fruit, and adult flies can quickly build up in large numbers, particularly if fruit waste is left to rot in paddocks. Let's remind ourselves of what SWD is capable of doing to soft fruit crops once it is established in an area by looking at data from other regions. While losses in the US and Europe as high as 80% have been reported among Rubus, strawberry and cherry crops, production losses of 20-40% on affected farms are more common.
SWD on raspberry in the United States. Photo credit: Hannah Burrack, North Carolina State University, Bugwood.org
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Management – what to consider
Microclimate manipulation • A humid environment is important for spotted wing drosophila viability
Management overseas follows an integrated approach, with a heavy focus on cultural controls. In Australia, like overseas, management would involve introducing a range of practices to maintain crop quality and minimise losses.
• S trategic pruning and plant spacing will allow for greater airflow, better chemical coverage and reduce shading
Below we highlight key considerations for management, based on current practices and findings overseas.
• R esearch into optimised pruning methods is ongoing overseas
Generation time and fecundity
Exclusion and mulches
• A female fly lays 1-3 eggs per site and can lay up to 400 eggs throughout her lifetime
• Exclusion netting must be at least 80 grams • N etting must be in place before spotted wing drosophila adults are detected in the area
• P opulation growth throughout a season is highly dependent on environmental conditions
• P lastic weed barriers will stop larvae from burrowing into soil to pupate and will reduce presence of standing water, thus reducing humidity
• S potted wing drosophila will rapidly increase its population size under mild conditions (approx. 22ºC)
Chemical control & trapping
• R aspberries bear the brunt of egg laying compared to strawberries, blueberries, and blackberries
• I f detected in Australia, the minor use and emergency permit system (and registrations) would support access to appropriate chemistry
• T his may be due to the thin skin of the raspberry, but research into what drives preferences is ongoing
• Chemical control must be timed to target the adult
• U se of the SWD Host Preference Index (Bellamy et al. 2013) indicates the following hierarchy: raspberry>strawberry>blackberry> cherry>peach>blueberry>grape
• O verseas, regular use of a limited number of chemicals has increased risk of resistance. Flare-ups of secondary pests, such as scale, has also been an issue
• A trapping network set up early in the growing season will give an indication of adult presence and abundance, which can help inform strategic sprayin
• F ruit waste is removed during and after harvest. This includes fruit that has already dropped
• A range of lures and trapping systems are now available commercially, or traps can be made using basic ingredients, such as wine (plenty of that in Australia!)
• W aste is sealed in pallet bins or drums. Fermenting of waste for 2-4 days at 18°C, creates an anaerobic environment that will kill larvae
In Australia, the wide climatic zones spanned by host fruit growing regions will require nuanced regional management planning. If there is an incursion, it is possible that efficiencies could be made by aligning certain practices with those used to manage Queensland fruit fly or Mediterranean fruit fly depending on location.
• H ort Innovation funded research project reviewing Australian natural enemy options, including parasitoid potential, is underway (MT18010) • G round dwelling generalists, such as carabid beetles and earwigs are likely to have the greatest suppressive effect (and will need to be protected from off-target insecticide impacts)
Early detection really does increase the chances of eradication. However, if eradication is not an option, at the end of the day early detection remains a crucial part in giving growers time to learn more about this pest, to plan, and put in place management infrastructure and processes so the supply chain can continue without hiccup.
Reducing harvest intervals • Reducing harvest intervals will:
— reduce olfactory attractants from over ripe fruit
— reduce number of preferred egg laying sites
— r educe number of larvae that develop into adults, limiting population growth
MT17005 ‘Improving the biosecurity preparedness of Australian horticulture for the exotic Spotted Wing Drosophila (Drosophila suzukii)’, was funded by Hort Innovation, using the strawberry, raspberry and blackberry, cherry and summerfruit research and development levies and contributions from the Australian Government.
• P ast studies on raspberry indicate harvesting every two days gives good protection from egg lay and does not significantly impact yield • H arvesting every three days resulted in a noticeable difference, with more eggs and larvae detected
Hort Innovation is the grower-owned, not-for-profit research and development corporation for Australian horticulture. Project partners were Plant Health Australia, cesar, Plant & Food Research, and Horticulture New Zealand.
Quality control • T he floatation test is often used as a batch test for infected fruit • T raining packing line workers to remove fruit with feeding symptoms (sunken blemishes on fruit are an indicator) adds another layer of quality control
References: Bellamy DE, Sisterson MS, Walse SS (2013) Quantifying Host Potentials: Indexing Postharvest Fresh Fruits for Spotted Wing Drosophila, Drosophila suzukii. PLoS ONE. Leach, H. et al. (2017). Rapid harvest schedules and fruit removal as non-chemical approaches for managing spotted wing Drosophila. Journal of Pest Science. Sial, A. et al. (2017) SWD in Organic Berry Crops. Management Guide. Tochen, S. et al. (2014) Temperature-related development and population parameters for Drosophila suzukii (Diptera: Drosophilidae) on cherry and blueberry. Environmental Entomology. Environmental entomology.
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I N D U S T R Y
Spotted wing drosophila: go-to preparedness resources for time-poor advisors Dr Jessica Lye, Extension Lead, Cesar Australia MT17005 ‘Improving the biosecurity preparedness of Australian horticulture for the exotic Spotted Wing Drosophila (Drosophila suzukii) These yield loss estimates do not include additional impacts for industry, such as from the downgrading of product and consumer concerns. Additionally, costs may also arise from changes to management throughout the supply chain and flare up of secondary pests if chemistry is applied more regularly.
Are you an agronomist, field entomologist, biosecurity officer, industry development manager, or just generally a really popular go-to font of knowledge for your respective industry? If the answer is ‘yes’ then you would likely be expected to keep your finger on the pulse when it comes to important endemic and exotic agricultural pest species – but it can be so hard to find time to stay informed, right?
Why is early industry know-how important? When analysing data from US farms, we found that there is a negative trend between time passing and yield loss, likely due to improved management practices over time.
If you work in a soft fruit industry, such as berries, grapes or summerfruit, you will likely have heard the name of one particular exotic species being mentioned once in a while. It is the spotted wing drosophila (Drosophila suzukii).
This means that industry knowledge brokers (you guys) are going to play a crucial role when it comes to minimising long term impacts of spotted wing drosophila on farms when this pest is found in Australia – and to be clear, we don’t think it’s a case of ‘if’ – spotted wing drosophila is very good at hitchhiking its way into new territories.
The quick and dirty on SWD While not yet found in Australia, spotted wing drosophila has caused quite a few headaches overseas. This exotic fly can pierce and lay eggs in unripe fruits still on the vine, and it is persistent in both warm and very cold environments.
The best time to build your knowledge base is before a new pest arrives in the country – the luxury of learning at your own pace is lost when a pest incursion occurs and the phone starts ringing! The need is particularly high if that pest has been shown to spread readily to new regions and creates a high economic impact after arrival - like with the spotted wing drosophila.
Larvae stay protected from chemical controls as they feed within the fruit, and adult flies can quickly build up in large numbers, particularly if fruit waste is left to rot in paddocks.
The map in Figure 1 shows regions where spotted wing drosophila is likely to establish. After simulating spread of this species following the most likely scenario – entry of this pest through an Australian international port – we predict that it will establish in these regions within six years of an incursion.
During a recently concluded Hort Innovation project, led by Plant Health Australia, we collected reports of yield loss resulting from spotted wing drosophila infestations in a range of crops. Reported losses vary from no loss to 100% loss, with the majority of yield loss reports arising from raspberry farms. Losses of 20-40% are most commonly reported.
In Australia, like overseas, management would involve introducing a range of integrated practices to maintain crop quality and minimise losses.
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Figure 1. Predicted establishment of spotted wing drosophila. Source: Dr James Maino, cesar Australia
Learn and extend, then do it again! To make it easier for you to build your knowledge on the pest, cesar and its project partners have developed a spotted wing drosophila Preparedness Basics Guide — a simple go-to for the quick and dirty on spotted wing drosophila, which complements a detailed spotted wing drosophila Preparedness Plan.
All we ask is that you share your new knowledge with a few green thumbs and ask them to do the same. In this way we can build the confidence of growers and other horticultural businesses just a little bit more with each person who shares their knowledge.
You can find these resources, as well as a collection of educational and outreach resources in our spotted wing drosophila Extension Pack, which can be accessed at bit.ly/SWDExtensionPack. In addition, the final report for the recently concluded spotted wing drosophila preparedness project is now available on the MT17005 Hort Innovation website.
Spotted wing drosophila Preparedness Basics is your quick guide to getting up to speed on this exotic pest.
Funding body, partner and project attribution: MT17005 ‘Improving the biosecurity preparedness of Australian horticulture for the exotic Spotted Wing Drosophila (Drosophila suzukii)’, was funded by Hort Innovation, using the strawberry, raspberry and blackberry, cherry and summerfruit research and development levies and contributions from the Australian Government. Hort Innovation is the grower-owned, not-for-profit research and development corporation for Australian horticulture. Project partners were Plant Health Australia, cesar, Plant & Food Research, and Horticulture New Zealand.
SUPPORT YOUR INDUSTRY
TO SUPPORT YOUR BUSINESS! The ABGA is funding a major marketing program – please contribute your share Why should I pay the voluntary levy?
How do I pay the levy?
The voluntary levies fund all of the essential activities that contribute to the growth of our blueberry industry. Activities include, but are not limited to:
Follow the steps below:
1. Prepare a statement with the following information
• Maintaining consumption and price after COVID-19 through a dedicated marketing campaign
• Grower Name • Quarter + Dates (e.g. Q2 1st Oct - 31st Dec 2019) • Number of kg fruit sold in that quarter • Amount of levy being paid • Indicate if your agent deducts your levies (if so, include agent name)
• R esearch & development into registered chemicals + IPM + Integrated Disease Management programs • A chieving export protocols into Japan and other Asian markets • P rogressing applications for market access to China and other countries
2. Email the statement to the Membership Officer
• Funding our Industry Development Officer
Email statement to: firstname.lastname@example.org The Membership Officer will send you an Invoice for payment
• Funding our Executive Director and support staff • C ommunication and engagement with members – industry journal, e-news, website, conference
3. Pay your levy to the ABGA account
• P romoting positive industry stories and addressing negative media
Account name: Bank: BSB: Account: Reference:
• P roviding our contribution to Hort Innovation under the Collective Industry Fund which is matched with equal funding used for various industry projects as determined by the Blueberry Strategic Industry Advisory Panel
How much levy do I have to pay?
Australian Blueberry Growers’ Association Westpac 033 10 7 181 4 71 GROWER NAME + Financial Quarter (e.g. “Joe Bloggs Q2 levy”)
y agent deducts levies — M what do I need to do?
Standard levies are $0.05/kg fruit sold. This year there is an additional levy of $0.05/kg fruit sold for the COVID-19 marketing campaign. Total levy is $0.10/kg
Send the Membership Officer a statement as per Step 1 above. She will then check that the agent has paid the levy. Email the statement to email@example.com
When do I pay the voluntary levy? Levies are payable once every financial quarter:
What about confidentiality of the information provided?
1 July – 30 September
Any information provided will be kept confidential.
1 October – 31 December
1 January – 31 March
1 April – 30 June
I need help, who do I contact? Wendy Morris Email: firstname.lastname@example.org | Phone: 0491 751 123
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Blueberry Market Access Update Jenny Van de Meeberg, Export Manager, Berries Australia
In 2019, exports of Australian blueberries totalled 387 tonnes worth AUD$7.8M (ITC calculations based on Australia Bureau of Statistics). Export represented 1% of total blueberry production, with the remaining 90% being consumed by the domestic market and 9% being used by the processing industry (2018-2019 Australian Horticulture Statistics Handbook). Blueberries are Australia’s 16th largest fruit export by value and 19th largest by volume (2018-2019 Australian Horticulture Statistics Handbook). However, when looking at price per kilo, Australian blueberries are the highest unit-value fruit exported by Australia – a truly premium crop. The unit-value should be viewed as an indicator of potential; just a small increase in the total volume will yield an impressive increase in the total value.
Stand-out markets with exceptional growth over the last year include Thailand, which has tripled, Malaysia which has quadrupled and, Indonesia which has seen a twelve-fold increase. Although this is encouraging, both Malaysia and Indonesia have shown a historic tendency to fluctuate greatly so the recent increase may not be permanent. On the other hand, Thailand has been steadily rising and is positioned to rival Singapore in the coming years as a market of equivalent size. The other notable feature of this data is the newcomer, India. Although there has only been three years of trade, it is now the same size as Malaysia and represents 3% of total exports.
Over the past 10 years, between 2009 and 2019, Australian blueberry exports have fluctuated; the volume has ranged from a low of 64 tonnes in 2012 to a high of 387 tonnes in 2019. Similarly, in the corresponding years, the value has ranged between AUD$0.97M and AUD$7.8M (ITC calculations based on Australia Bureau of Statistics). Unsurprisingly, the lows correspond to the period directly following the loss of Australian mainland market access to Japan and the dramatic swings in the data reinforce how crucial highvalue Asian markets are to this industry. Regaining access to Japan and opening similar high-value destinations is a pressing priority for the Australian blueberry industry.
The blueberry industry can become one of Australia’s leading export crops, but it needs to unlock markets able to consume sea-freight volumes at Australian premium prices. Target markets are therefore countries with large, concentrated, affluent populations willing to pay for high-quality imported fruit that can be shipped and distributed at scale. Based on this reasoning and supported by quantitative data, the ABGA has prioritised blueberry market access to Japan, China, South Korea, Taiwan, Vietnam and New Zealand.
Over the past decade, five markets have consistently appeared in the export footprint for Australian blueberries; Hong Kong, Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia. Hong Kong alone represented almost 60% of the trade in 2019 (ITC calculations based on Australia Bureau of Statistics).
These six priority markets have also been independently substantiated as the top priority for Australian blueberry exports by the levy-funded Australian Blueberry Export Strategy produced by McKinna et al in 2020. The report concludes these markets will be the key to blueberry export growth between now and 2030.
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Obtaining new market access for a product into a country that currently prohibits import from Australia is a complex and often lengthy process. To seek new market access, the industry must develop a formal business case to support government negotiations, including economic analysis of the opportunity, detailed pest and disease data and efficacy evidence of proposed treatment schedules to manage pests of concern identified by the trading partner. The process of gathering this information and compiling a request can take many years.
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Once a formal business case is ready, the Australian Government negotiates with the trading partner through official engagement mechanisms. The negotiation process can also take many years and may require additional pest and disease work to be undertaken throughout the proceedings if the trading partner requires further information. The ABGA previously lodged market access applications for Japan and China with the Australian Government and they are current priorities for negotiation with these two respective trading partners. However, to broaden the market mix and diversify the options for exporters, the ABGA recently compiled and submitted an additional four applications to request market access to South Korea, Taiwan, Vietnam and New Zealand, in line with the industryâ€™s export strategy. These applications were approved by the Hort Innovation review committee and are now ready for negotiation when the existing priorities for these markets are resolved. Whilst it is likely these applications will take many years to transpire into market access agreements, ABGA has taken the first important step in the journey and in doing so, has brought the industry closer to unlocking new potential than ever before. If you are interested in blueberry exports or have If you about are interested in blueberry questions market access, please contactexports Berries or have questions about market access, Australia Export Manger, Jenny Van de Meeberg, at email@example.com please contact:
Jenny Van de Meeberg â€” Berries Australia Export Manger: firstname.lastname@example.org
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New market access project to support blueberry exporters John Golding, NSW DPI & Baogang Wang1 The blueberry component of the project is being completed with export quality fruit from Coffs Harbour with the fruit quality assessments being conducted at the Centre of Excellence for Horticulture Market Access at NSW Department of Primary Industries. The blueberry fruit assessments that will be completed include both subjective (skin bloom, fruit shrivel, skin colour, internal breakdown) and objective (weight loss, respiration rate, fruit firmness, total soluble solids and titratable acidity) measures.
Delivering premium fruit into export markets is essential for the success of the Australian blueberry industry, particularly to make the most of newly ratified free trade agreement (FTA) opportunities. However, due to phytosanitary restrictions because of fruit fly in many parts of Australia, most of our fruit exports need an additional end-point treatment for market access. These end-point postharvest treatments include cold treatment, fumigation and low dose irradiation. While not all markets accept these phytosanitary treatments, their effect on product quality after treatment and outturn are sometimes perceived as ‘variable’. Many of these end-point treatments are already used in many industries, but the development of new markets requires the exploration of alternative market access treatments and new export pathways. There are many studies on the effects of different market access treatments on final product such as fumigation, but there is no direct comparative information on the effects of the different phytosanitary tools (cold treatment, low dose irradiation and fumigation).
Figure 1. Monitoring fruit temperatures from the orchard through the supply chain Photo credit: John Golding, NSW DPI
This one-year project will provide commercially relevant information on the direct comparison of different market access treatments on final fruit quality to assist large export industries (citrus, table grapes) and growing export industries with potential (cherries, blueberries). A data set of comparative fruit quality following treatment and simulated export supply chain will provide growers and exporters with reliable clear information to decide which market access treatment is suitable for a specific market pathway. This will give exporters commercial confidence to use ‘new’ phytosanitary pathways to new export markets and realise opportunities created for Australian exporters under recent FTA agreements.
Figure 2. Dr Wang measuring fruit respiration rates following treatment and storage Photo credit: John Golding, NSW DPI
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For more information, please contact John Golding at NSW Department of Primary Industries : Email: email@example.com This project is funded by the Federal Department of Agriculture, Water and Environment through the Agricultural Trade and Market Access Cooperation (ATMAC) Program and NSW Department of Primary Industries. The results will soon be available and be distributed widely to industry and exporters.
Figure 2. Measuring blueberry firmness with FirmTech instrument at NSW DPI Photo credit: John Golding, NSW DPI
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Australian Blueberries Marketing Update Jane Richter
The Australian Blueberry marketing campaign and promotions are funded solely by the ABGA voluntary levy. If you are a blueberry grower and are not currently paying any levy, please SEE PAGE 38 to find out how you can contribute to the growth drivers of your industry. Online at Woolworths.com.au
The significant investment in promotional activities designed to grow the sales of fresh Australian blueberries continues in this latest season with a mixture of paid advertising close to the point of sale and engagement with consumers through digital channels.
With the restrictions placed on the café & restaurant trade, it won’t surprise you to know that spending on food in the grocery channel is up over 10% against this time last year. In September, buying fresh produce online increased again with sales at double the same period a year ago.
The strategy for this season is focusing on existing blueberry buyers to increase their frequency and volume of blueberries purchased.
To capitalise on this increase in online activity, Australian Blueberries advertised directly on the Woolworths online platform from 2nd September to 6th October, targeting fresh fruit purchasers and encouraging the sale of blueberries on every shopping occasion. Static and animated banners were applied on the screen whilst a consumer completed their shopping. These banners would appear when a user searched for “blueberries” and related terms.
Getting close to the point of sale This season, two mechanisms have been used to communicate with existing blueberry buyers as close to the point of purchase as you can get in a COVID-19 world; digital animated panels outside grocery stores in shopping centres and online at woolworths.com.au
Digital panels in shopping centres
Over the campaign period, 206,000 unique shoppers were reached, at an average frequency of 8.2 over the campaign period. $770,000 of sales were attributed from shoppers exposed to the search display banners and keyword content cards over the campaign period. Units ordered calculated any unit ordered after a customer viewed the advert within the last 28 days and purchased blueberries online.
The creative was designed to catch the eye, show simple usage ideas and deliver the call to action of “put a little ‘oo’ in your basket”. The activity ran in August and September in key centres across both Sydney and Melbourne.
Engaging Australian blueberry fans online
There are a couple of key metrics that allow us to assess how well an eDM campaign is working.
Given the target market this season is existing buyers, we developed a strategy that would use multiple avenues to reach and influence their purchasing.
Firstly, the % of people who actually open the email – also known as Open Rate. The industry benchmark for Open Rate is 19.3% and we have achieved 40.7% in the latest month.
We engaged a key ambassador to be an additional mouthpiece for Australian Blueberries – Jessica Sepel from JS Health.
Jess is a three-times best-selling health author, and the creator of the JSHealth App and 8-Week Program. Jess is a strong advocate of nourishing your body naturally, using whole foods which make you feel fantastic, while still allowing occasional indulgences. She believes in health as a sustainable lifestyle choice, which can be enjoyed! She is all about balance.
The second important measure looks at how many readers actually choose to click on a link in the email showing they are interested to find out even more. This is known as the Click-Through Rate and the Food & Beverage industry benchmark sits at 2.1% whereas our campaigns have achieved 11.7%.
The team at Magnum & Co worked with Jessica to create a digital recipe book and a series of videos which have been used across several platforms to engage with buyers and drive them to our website to download the recipe book. Their email details are captured, and we have then been able to speak to them on a monthly basis through our electronic direct mail (eDM) campaigns which have achieved record results. We now have nearly 10,000 subscribers with 3775 of those attracted directly by Jessica’s Blueberry recipe book.
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Three Tier Influencer Strategy pays dividends
Social media is playing a key role in our campaign this season as more and more time is spent there by consumers. Using YouTube, Instagram and Facebook, we have reached over 1.8m Blueberry buyers and have achieved over 1.8m engagements from them of some form, including likes, shares and video views.
You may remember from the Spring edition that we planned to use three tiers of influencers in our digital strategy this season, based on the insights that show credible, authentic influencers do just that – influence the purchasing and consumption behaviour of their followers. Our influencers have published over 140 pieces of blueberry centric content reaching the screens of blueberry buyers over 10 million times! Not only have we reached blueberry lovers lots of times, but we have achieved three times the average engagement with those people. You’ll remember that Jessica Sepel and Dr Joanna McMillan were engaged as our key ambassadors, to bring reach and credibility to our messaging, particularly in the health space. We also brought on board seven influencers who were paid to create and share content, curated by us to ensure the messaging was exactly on point. And finally, we used the accepted tradition of gifting trays of fresh blueberries early in the season to a large group of influencers with smaller followings whose values were very aligned with those of fresh Australian blueberries. It’s a very cost-effective way to encourage the generation of plenty of high-quality blueberry content, that can then be re-shared via our own digital channels.
Another major reason to use digital and social media is the cost effectiveness of the channels. With a relatively limited budget, we have closely measured our costs and have benchmarked them against industry averages to ensure that we are getting the best value for money invested. At the beginning of the season, clear key performance indicators (KPI) were set and each month we look at how we are tracking against those KPIs. In the first 3 months of the campaign, we smashed all KPIs and so we raised the bar even higher for the second part of the season, and the great news is that we are still well on track to beat those stricter KPIs. Measure 1 - Cost per Engagement (CPE): How much do you have to invest in order to receive one engagement of any kind (like/share/follow/video view)? Our original target for this was 10c per engagement, revised down to 5c in October. We’re consistently achieving 2c per engagement – so a fifth of the original cost planned.
Still making a splash through PR
Measure 2 – Cost per Click (CPC): You want to take someone from being interested (engaged) to the next step where they take some action, in this case clicking through to download our Recipe Book.
Good old-fashioned Public Relations (PR) may have been re-born as Earned Media, but the energetic team at Magnum & Co have been relentless in trying to get every single piece of cost-free coverage for fresh Australian blueberries this season. They’ve been featured in a healthy breakfast segment on the TODAY show that was widely syndicated to regional TV, been touted by Jessica as the go-to superfood in the Daily Mail, five growers from across the country have been profiled in various media channels to boost the provenance of fresh local berries and we’ve lost count of the number of inspiring recipes that have been published across the media world in Australia. Marketing activity continues through the season until January 2021. Please SEE PAGE 38 for how to add your share to the campaign via a voluntary levy contribution.
Our original target was 80c per click, and this was revised down to 70c. We’re coming in at half that cost with a CPC of just 42c. Recipes still perform the very best on Instagram – it’s the home of inspiration after all – we’re getting just under 50 saves on average of each and every recipe that has been posted. On Facebook, our blueberry people absolutely love to hear direct from the growers and hear the stories behind the fruit, so if you have a tale about you and your farm that you’d be happy to share we are always listening. Drop us a line on email@example.com
Visit: www.australianblueberries.com.au FACEBOOK-SQUARE instagram /australianblueberries If you have any images from your farm that you would like to share, we’d love to use them in our Social Media channels. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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Why understanding soil texture is key to blueberry mound management Justine Cox, NSW Department of Primary Industries Soil Scientist
The aim of best practice nutrient management for blueberry growers is to apply the right amount of nutrition for optimum plant growth and berry yield, without losing excess nutrients that could end up in local water ways. Soil texture is generally described using the following broad categories: sands, sandy loams, loams, clay loams, light clays, and medium-heavy clays. Loams are those soils with equal proportions of sand, silt and clay (Figure 2).
Justine Cox, Soil Scientist. Photo credit: NSW DPI As blueberries are fertigated, the fate of applied nutrients is influenced by the rate and frequency of irrigation and how water moves through the soil. Water movement in the soil is determined primarily by soil texture which influences the water infiltration rate, the water storage capacity, and the nutrient holding capacity of the soil. Soil texture is determined by the percentage of sand, silt and clay particles in the soil. The size of each of these particles is quite different which contributes to the physical characteristics of the soil (Figure 1).
Australian standard particle size range (mm)
0.2 — 2
0.02 — 0.2
0.002 — 0.02
Figure 2. Soil texture is determined by the proportion of sand, silt and clay particles Soil texture directly influences nutrient retention and leaching capacity. Coarse grained sands have larger pores which drain rapidly and are poor at holding water and nutrients, whereas fine textured clays have a high nutrient retention capacity. Clay soils also contain negative charges on their surface, allowing positively charged cations including calcium, potassium, magnesium and sodium to be retained.
Figure 1. Individual particle size range for the sand, silt and clay components of soil
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Given this impact on nutrient retention, it is important to consider soil texture when prescribing fertiliser recommendations. Better targeting of fertiliser application also reduces costs for growers and demonstrates best practice management to the wider industry, community and regulators.
Phosphorous binds to the soil to varying degrees, depending on the capacity of the soil to ‘fix’ this nutrient, which is known as the soil’s Phosphorus Buffering Index or PBI. Soils with a high PBI will quickly bind phosphorous and make it unavailable for plant uptake. PBI is closely related to soil texture. The PBI together with the soil’s Colwell P (available phosphorous) and texture will affect the amount of phosphorous in applied fertiliser that will be available to the plant. Phosphorous attached to soil particles will suspend in surface water and flow to the lowest point in the landscape, potentially ending up in creeks and streams where excess phosphate (PO4-) can increase the likelihood of algal blooms. Adding mulch to some blueberry soils can help improve water infiltration and nutrient absorption by the plant, however success will depend on both the soil type and the mulch material. Experiments conducted by NSW Department of Primary Industries across different soil textures comparing weed mat to woodchip mulch, found that all three soil textures investigated (red loam, red medium clay, and grey and red silty loam) had good drainage (Peverill et al, 1999) when the blueberry mounds were initially created. The researchers found that red loam and red medium clay soils maintained good infiltration rates after 12 months.
Figure 3. Soil profile of an excavated blueberry mound showing root distribution through the top 30cm Nitrogen and phosphorus are key nutrients for the blueberry plant, but when applied in excessive amounts can cause environmental harm in local waterways that drain into the wider marine estate. Critically, excess available nitrogen and phosphorous that leaves the farm can lead to eutrophication in local waterways causing algal blooms and changes in the composition of communities of aquatic species. Nitrogen can be present in soils in different forms and compounds, including nitrate and ammonium. Nitrate (NO3-) is a water soluble negative ion which means it readily moves through the soil profile in solution without attaching to soil particles. It can leach beyond the roots into hydrological pathways and groundwater. The risk of leaching is higher in sandy soils. Ammonium (NH4+), the form of nitrogen that is most effectively utilised by blueberry plants, has a positive charge and is more inclined to remain in the soil until taken up by the plant, converted to nitrate, or leached through the soil profile.
Figure 4.1. Root distribution in red loam Figure 4.1 compares frequency of roots in weedmat and woodchip treatments, with the weedmat treatment showing the greatest root frequency (above 20) at the 20 cm depth. Figure 4.1 shows root frequency from 0 to 25 on the horizontal axis, with soil depth from 0 to 40 indicated on the left vertical axis
The issues outlined demonstrate the significant impact of soil texture in managing blueberry mound nutrition. Given that texture plays such a crucial role in a plant’s capacity to access nutrients applied through fertigation, considering the texture of your soil is clearly just as important as testing for soil nutrition.
Assessing soil texture in the field Soil texture can be measured using a lab test, however most people can make a reasonably accurate texture estimate in the field using a simple manual technique. • T ake a small portion of soil (around 4 tablespoons) in your hand and remove any stones that are larger than 2 mm in size.
Figure 4.2. Root distribution in grey silty loam Chart shows difference in root distribution between weedmat and woodchip treatments with soil depth from 0 to 40 cm indicated on the left vertical axis, and root frequency on the horizontal axis, from 0 to 20.
• A dd water to the sample of soil, make sure it’s fully moist, then use your thumb to create a ribbon with the soil and feel the consistency.
Figures 4.1 and 4.2: Root distribution and frequency in the soil profile for both weed mat and woodchip treatments.
• T he grittiness or silkiness, and the length of the ribbon will indicate the soil texture. For example, a sandy soil feels gritty and will not make a ribbon at all, whereas a sandy loam will form a ribbon of 15 to 20 mm. • A clay loam will form a ribbon of 40 to 50 mm and feels smooth to manipulate. A medium clay will form a ribbon of 85 to 100 mm, which handles like plasticine and can be moulded into a rod. For more information see ‘Determining soil texture using the ribboning technique’, December 2014 Primefact 1363 First edition Agriculture NSW Water Unit which can be found at bit.ly/NSW-DPI-Primefact-1363
References 1. Peverill KI, Sparrow LA, Reuter DJ (1999). Soil Analysis: An Interpretation Manual. ASPAC, CSIRO Publishing, Australia.
Figure 5. This soil has developed a crust on the surface, preventing the infiltration of water and nutrients into the soil profile.
2. Cox JA, Morris S and Dalby T (2014). Woodchip or weedmat? a comparative study on the effects of mulch on soil properties and blueberry yield. Acta Hort 1018:369-374 3. Hazelton P, & Murphy B (2016). Interpreting soil test results. What Do All the Numbers Mean? Third Edition. CSIRO Publishing, Australia.
However, the water infiltration rate in the grey and red silty loams halved after twelve months, which was likely to lead to inadequate moisture availability in the soil, and therefore reduced nutrient uptake.
4. NSW DPI Primefact 1509 (2016). Irrigation management of blueberries in Northern NSW. 5. Simpson M (2020). Water use efficiency in blueberries. Primefact 1783, First edition. 6. Soil organic matter (2020). NSW Department of Primary Industries Agriculture website (accessed September 2020). 7. Carson J & Phillips L (2020). Soil Nitrogen Supply – Soil Quality Fact Sheets: soilquality. org.au website (accessed September 2020).
Plant canopy size, root volume and berry yield in these silty loams were also significantly smaller in subsequent years compared to the other soils in the experiment (Cox et al., 2014).
This article was compiled by the Clean Coastal Catchments project which is funded through the NSW Government under the Marine Estate Management Strategy. The ten-year Strategy was developed by the NSW Marine Estate Management Authority to coordinate the management of the marine estate. © State of New South Wales through NSW Department of Industry
The water infiltration problem may be due to the inherent properties of silty soil. Soils high in silt tend to develop a surface crust when wet as the pore spaces on the surface become blocked, causing water to run off rather than seep into the soil (Hazelton and Murphy 2016).
More information about this article is available on the Clean Coastal Catchments website at: www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/agriculture
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Researching native flies as pollinators of blueberries Dr David Cook, Research Scientist, Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development, WA
A lack of insect pollinators during flowering is often the cause of poor berry formation and fewer marketable fruit in both strawberries and raspberries, and commercial blueberry production in Australia is virtually entirely dependent on the European honey bee (Apis mellifera L.) for pollination. A national $5.74 million five-year project is examining the potential for using native flies to supplement bees as pollinators of horticultural crops. Funded by Hort Innovation, and with co-participants from across Australia, the research in WA is focused on examining the performance of native flies as pollinators in blueberry crops as well as avocados. Other national collaborators are also investigating avocados as well as mangoes, seed crops and several berry crops including strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries.
Blueberries can self-pollinate to a certain degree, but the addition of a fly pollinator showed that yield between the two treatments began to differ 11 weeks after the flies were first released. Berry yield remained higher in the house with flies (11.29 kilograms from 6177 berries at 1.83 grams per berry) compared with those plants without flies (4.98 kilograms from 3427 berries at 1.45 grams per berry) (Figure 2). This is the first demonstration under controlled conditions of the ability of an Australian calliphorid blowfly to pollinate and increase yield of commercial blueberry bushes.
Pollination is vital to the success of many fruit and vegetable crops, with pollination-dependant crops in Australia worth almost $6 billion annually. While bees are the most widely-used and well-known crop pollinator, there are many other insects that are natural crop pollinators, in particular flies. Flies offer multiple benefits as pollinators: they are present all year round, they regularly visit flowers to meet their high sugar demand for flying, they are big and hairy and often pick up pollen and move it from flower to flower, and they donâ€™t sting people. Australian flies being considered in this research include calliphorids, syrphids (hover flies) and rhiniids (snout-nosed flies). Endemic to south-west WA, the western golden-haired fly (Calliphora albifrontalis, Figure 1) performed well in 2018 glasshouse trials on southern highbush blueberries. In the trial, which included nine bushes in each treatment, plants pollinated by the flies produced 43 percent more berries than the control where pollinators were excluded. Berries were also larger with adult C. albifrontalis present, 1.88 grams per berry verses 1.63 grams in the control.
Figure 1. A Calliphora albifrontalis fly about to feed on a blueberry flower (L) resulting fruit set following pollination (R). Photo credit: Dr Sue Jaggar, DPIRD
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Figure 2. Yield of southern highbush blueberries over time since the first fly release. The area in green represents the time when blueberries that were harvested could have been pollinated by C. albifrontalis adult flies in GH1 versus bushes that self-pollinated (GH2).
Figure 4. Total yield and mean berry size of blueberries when housed with either C. albifrontalis or C. dubia adult flies over 5 months. This project is investigating the use of native flies in the pollination of horticultural crops as a ‘pollination service package’ – from identifying suitable flies for pollination, to suitability for mass rearing and release. The final two years of the project (2021-2023) will develop rearing techniques for mass production of the best candidate fly species. This will involve determining the dose of x-ray radiation required to render the flies sterile, so that they don’t alter the balance of natural fly populations. The aim is to make the flies commercially available as a pollination service to future proof the industry by reducing reliance on honeybees as the sole pollinator.
A subsequent trial in 2019 showed that another native species of fly, found on the majority of the Australian mainland, Calliphora dubia, the western blue-bodied fly (Figure 3), produced even better results than C. albifrontalis. Pollination by C. dubia increased yield by more than thirty percent when compared with C. albifrontalis as well as producing bigger berries (Figure 4). This comparison between the two fly species is being repeated in 2020 to authenticate the results and provide increased confidence in the findings.
For more information please contact: Dr David Cook Email: email@example.com Phone: (08) 9368 3804 The Managing flies for crop pollination project is funded by the Hort Frontiers Pollination Fund, part of the Hort Frontiers strategic partnership initiative developed by Hort Innovation, with co-investment from Western Sydney University, The University of New England, The University of Western Australia and Seed Purity Pty Ltd (Tasmania) with contributions from the Australian Government.
Figure 3. Calliphora dubia, the western blue-bodied fly, outperformed C. albifrontalis in 2019 glasshouse trials. Photo credit: Dr Sue Jaggar, DPIRD
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Blueberry Fields forever â€” looking at a holistic approach to Blueberry growing Melinda Simpson, Berry Industry Development Officer, Blueberries & NSW, NSW Department of Primary Industries
Blueberry fields is a family-owned blueberry orchard located within the Byron Bay region of northern NSW. Otto, Lynette and their son Jascha Saeck own and manage the farm and have been growing blueberries for over 30 years. Currently they have over 34 hectares of blueberries with 28 hectares planted to southern highbush varieties and the remaining 6 hectares under Rabbiteyes. Jascha has grown up helping on his family farm, but in 2016 decided to leave his job as an engineer to work full-time helping to run the farm.
I was always going to come back and work on the farm, I enjoy it and I think Iâ€™m much better suited to it. I enjoy being outside and the lifestyle... I never have been a fan of too much paperwork. Blueberry Fields sell their fruit to the Sydney central markets at Flemington and also sell at the local markets in the Northern Rivers region. The Saecks share a sustainable vision which many of their practices reflect. They are currently trialling several biodegradable and recyclable containers to package their blueberries for sale at the local markets. Jascha Saeck out in the fields doing what he loves best. Photo credit: Melinda Simpson, NSW DPI
Biodegradable and recyclable packaging ready to be filled with blueberries for sale at the markets. Photo credit: Jascha Saeck
In 2018, Jascha decided that it was time to start diversifying and so started trialling raspberries, blackberries and just to be a bit different, pigs. At first the pigs started as a novelty idea, a way of getting rid of their reject fruit by supplementing the pigs’ diet with this fruit and then marketing the pork as ‘Blueberry-fed pork”. However, now the Saecks are looking at how they can integrate the pigs into their current business and are currently using the pigs to clean up old blocks for replanting. Once the pigs do a thorough clean-up of the blocks, the next stage is to trial a soil builder seed mix which should improve the soil before re-planting back to berries or diversifying into something else.
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Photo credit: Melinda Simpson, NSW DPI
Figure 5. Blueberry Fields’ compost (above) and Jascha checking effects of application under the bush (below)
Jascha has just completed a â€œHolistic Managementâ€? course through InsideOutside Management and is trialling the implementation of many of the principles he has learnt through the course.
In the future, Blueberry Fields plan to continue to expand their raspberry and blackberry production with a view to a more rotational block plan which will keep the soil of each block much healthier than if they were to leave it as was done in the past. They are also in the process of planting 15,000 native Big Scrub rainforest trees in corridors on the property to encourage local wildlife and enhance diversity of flora.
On the farm at Brooklet Blueberry Fields the Saecks also make their own compost on-site using locally sourced materials which they apply to their blueberry mounds each year. By doing this, they have increased the organic matter and carbon in their soil by more than 10-fold, making it much more biologically active than when they first started farming.
The Saecks would like to see more research into determining the nutritional requirements of blueberries at different stages of growth and how this varies in different soil types. They are also interested in alternate weed control options such as trialling different ground covers that could provide benefits to the soils and plants as well as acting as a way of controlling unwanted weeds.
Our customers have to deal with all kinds of challenges, so they need to know they can rely on a stable substrate. At Legro we invest in our own production on facilities, so we can always ensure raw materials of the same quality. And that means we can guarantee high quality substrates, year after year. Contact me or one of my colleagues and let us know what you expect from your ideal substrate.
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Australian Strawberry Breeding Program Update: Subtropical and Mediterranean end of season reports and temperate trial update Katie O’Connor, Jodi Neal & Australian Strawberry Breeding Program Team, Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries
The Australian Strawberry Breeding Program (ASBP) aims to breed new superior strawberry varieties that are highly profitable for growers, have reduced production costs, and meet consumer preferences. These varieties are specifically bred for Australia’s major production regions, which includes: the temperate region, covering Victoria, Tasmania, South Australia, southern Western Australia, and the Granite Belt in Queensland; the subtropical region, which encompasses South East Queensland to Bundaberg; and the Mediterranean region, which covers production areas near Perth, WA.
Controlled cross-pollinations are performed to create thousands of seedlings that are genetically unique, and these seedlings are assessed for one year in field trials in their targeted production region. Seedlings that have desirable fruit characteristics and plant architecture are clonally propagated via runners for trialling in replicated ‘early-stage’ clonal trials. These early-stage trial plants are evaluated in detail weekly for numerous traits, and the best performing plants are selected for a second year of detailed assessment in ‘advanced-stage’ trials. From here, the best plants are again selected and distributed to a small number of fruit growers for ‘on-farm’ environment trials. Data and feedback from growers are used to decide whether any selections are suitable for future commercialisation as new varieties. Below is a summary of our activities in 2020 for each region.
In this article we’ll give you an update of our activities and progress across all targeted regions in 2020. The 2020 subtropical and Mediterranean variety trials are now complete, and the 2020-21 temperate season has just begun. Two new temperate varieties and one subtropical variety are also currently in the process of being commercially released, and high health plants of these have been distributed to plant propagators.
The subtropical breeding trials are performed across Maroochy (Nambour) and Bundaberg Research Facilities in Queensland. In early- to mid-March, 6,500 seedlings were planted at Nambour and 5,000 at Bundaberg (11,500 total). We also evaluated 63 early-stage and 33 advanced-stage selections at Nambour (Figure 1), and six selections were assessed in on-farm trials across south-east Queensland. After visual assessment throughout May to August, 230 seedlings have been selected from the subtropical region for assessments in clonal trials next year. We have identified 21 early-stage selections for advanced-stage trialling in 2021, and 10 selections will be progressed to on-farm trials for growers’ feedback.
Subtropical breeding trials
Our breeding trials all consist of four stages, which run concurrently in each production region every year: seedling trials, early-stage clonal trials, advanced-stage clonal trials, and on-farm trials.
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Figure 1. Subtropical and Mediterranean clonal trials at Maroochy Research Facility, Nambour. Photo credit: Dale McKenna One subtropical selection will be commercially released in 2021, based on its performance in breeding trials, on-farm trial data, and recommendations from growers (Figure 2). This selection has excellent yield and fruit size, good brix, and similar flavour, bruise and rain resistance to Red Rhapsody. A Subtropical Reference Group meeting will be held in mid-November to guide any additional selections to commercially release or advance to on-farm trialling.
Mediterranean breeding trials
Figure 2. Fruit of the subtropical selection to be named and released commercially in early 2021. Photo credit: Katie Oâ€™Connor
Figure 3. Jodi Neal assessing the Mediterranean seedling trial at Maroochy Research Facility, Nambour. Photo credit: Katie Oâ€™Connor
The Mediterranean production region is concentrated around Perth, Western Australia. However, this year, the ASBP Mediterranean trial had to be conducted at Nambour due to COVID-19 travel restrictions. A total of 2,350 Mediterranean seedlings were assessed (Figure 3), with 32 selected for early-stage trials in 2021. Nine early- and three advanced-stage Mediterranean selections were also trialled at Nambour in 2020. We selected two plants to progress to advanced-stage trialling and on-farm trials in Western Australia in 2021.
Temperate breeding trials
Disease resistance trials
Temperate breeding trials for the 2020/2021 season were planted at Wandin, Victoria in April 2020 (Figure 4). Our usual secondary trial at Applethorpe, Qld could not be run in 2020/21 due to drought. This is likely to have had minimal impact on breeding outcomes, however, due to the typically small size of this trial.
Routine screening for disease resistances has continued for selections from all three production regions. A powdery mildew resistance screening trial was conducted on substrate (hydroponics) at Nambour in 2020. This trial was comprised of 212 seedlings produced from crosses between commercial varieties and selections with resistance to powdery mildew, and 30 advanced-stage selections and commercial varieties from all three major production regions (Figure 5). A large proportion of seedlings showed good disease tolerance as well as improved agronomic traits over their parents (Figure 6).
Around 14,500 seedlings are being assessed at Wandin this season, as well as 148 early- and 85 advanced-stage selections. Eight advanced temperate selections are currently being evaluated in nine on-farm trials across Victoria, South Australia, Tasmania, Western Australia, ACT, and Queensland.
Current experiments are screening 21 selections for resistance to Macrophomina phaseolina (charcoal rot), 30 for resistance to Fusarium oxysporum f. sp. Fragariae, and 34 selections for resistance to Colletotrichum gloeosporioides. These experiments help determine the level of disease resistance in our advanced selections and best varieties, and also guide controlled cross-pollinations to increase the production of seedlings with disease tolerance and resistance in our breeding population.
Following consultation with the industry Temperate Reference Group earlier this year, we will be releasing two new temperate varieties in 2021. These selections have excellent flavour, and exceed performance of current industry standard varieties for a number of important traits, including yield and disease resistance. More information will be made available on these in early 2021.
Figure 4. 2020/21 temperate clonal and seedling trials at Wandin, Victoria. Photo credit: Karen Spencer
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The Australian Strawberry Breeding Program is funded by Hort Innovation using the strawberry research and development levy, funds from the Australian Government, and contributions from the Queensland Government through its Department of Agriculture and Fisheries. We thank the contributions by the Temperate and Subtropical Reference Groups and Mediterranean industry members who have help guide the program, the Industry Development Officers, and all other industry members who provide feedback, advice, and support. We are also extremely grateful to all the fruit producers in all states who have trialled, collected data on, and given feedback on our on-farm selections. This has helped us make more informed and better commercial judgments. The Australian Strawberry Breeding Program team members include Jodi Neal (project lead), Madeline Betts (laboratory technical assistant), Clinton Buck (Nambour field assistant), Janine Conway (tissue culture), Apollo Gomez (pathology), Sue Hibbit (Wandin field assistant), Lien Ko (virus indexing and pathology), Dale McKenna (Nambour field technical officer, and hydroponics), Allan McWaters (Applethorpe technical officer), Alan Noon (Wandin field assistant), Katie O’Connor (breeding and genomics), Michelle Paynter (virus indexing, tissue culture, and pathology), Karen Spencer (Wandin operations manager), Matthew Webb (genomics), and Louella Woolcock (Nambour field and glasshouse operations manager).
Figure 5. Strawberry breeder Katie O’Connor in the powdery mildew resistance screening trial at Maroochy Research Facility, Nambour. Photo credit: Jodi Neal
One of the guiding principles of the breeding work is to foster the exchange of ideas, so please contact Jodi Neal if you would like more information: Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Phone: 07 5381 1352 We value your thoughts and appreciate your feedback for the project team.
Figure 6. Top: powdery mildew symptoms on Red Rhapsody planted in the resistance screening trial in 2020. Bottom: powdery mildew resistant selection from the same trial. Photo credit: Katie O’Connor
ontact info: www.gardencityplastics.com
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A D V E SR TT ROA RWI AB LE R CR O I ENS T E N T
Prime GREY MOULD CONTROL Early in 2021 Syngenta will introduce powerful, dependable new fungicide MIRAVIS PRIME. Featuring two modes of action, MIRAVIS PRIME controls grey mould and powdery mildew.
Botrytis grey mould (Botrytis cinerea) on (LEFT) untreated control plants and (RIGHT) plants treated with MIRAVIS PRIME at proposed label rate, strawberry cv. Albion assessed 10 days after the second application, Woodside, SA, 16/05/2016. Trial conducted by AgXtra, SA
Grey mould, caused by Botrytis cinerea, is one of the most devastating diseases in berries. The fungal pathogen affects both flowers and fruit, resulting in significant yield loss and reduction in fruit quality. The fungi survive on dead or decaying plant matter and in the soil. Spores are spread from this infected plant material or soil, by wind and water, to infect new plants. Infection mainly occurs through natural openings or wound sites, caused by wind, water, insect pests or cultural management. Botrytis requires at least 8 hours of moisture and relatively high humidity to infect. Optimum temperature range for infection is 18-23°C. Botrytis infects flowers where it can remain dormant. The plant produces anti-fungal compounds which stop the development of symptoms on flowers and green fruit. When fruit starts to ripen, sugar content increases. The fungus feeds on sugar and causes rapid fruit decay. New infections can also occur at this stage as ripe fruit is more susceptible to disease. Symptoms of botrytis on fruit include a soft brown rot extending into the berry and grey fluffy mould. Fruit that are completely rotted can become dry and tough. Cultural practices can be used to reduce the incidence and spread of the disease. Practices such as removal of any dead or decaying plant SUMMER 2020
matter and removal of old infected canes can reduce the risk of new infections. Ripe, rotten fruit are a source of inoculum and should be removed from the paddock. Ensuring adequate airflow around individual plants will reduce the risk of disease development whilst providing protection from frosts. Use of excessive nitrogen can lead to dense canopies, so maintaining good crop nutrition will ensure a healthy crop whilst minimising excessive foliage. Irrigation management can also assist in reducing moisture for extended periods. A preventative program of fungicides, used with cultural practices, will provide the best protection. The timing of fungicide application is critical to ensure plants are protected in wet conditions and when rain events are forecast. Fungicide use requires careful management as overuse can lead to resistance, thereby rendering the chemical group ineffective. Alternating fungicides with different modes of action is recommended to minimise the risk of fungicide resistance. A new fungicide, MIRAVIS® PRIME, is being introduced into Australia early in 2021. Miravis Prime combines two active ingredients pydiflumetofen (Group 7) and fludioxonil (Group 12). With two different modes of action, MIRAVIS PRIME attacks fungi at multiple sites for optimum protection against botrytis and AUSTRALIAN
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powdery mildew in strawberries. “Fludioxonil, works as a protectant on the surface of the leaf, whilst pydiflumetofen, moves very quickly into the waxy cuticle giving long lasting protection” advised Syngenta Territory Sales Manager Lisa Dillon. “Miravis Prime halts spore germination and kills the fungus directly by entering the mitochondria.” “Miravis Prime is a suspension concentrate and is very compatible with other crop protection products” described Lisa.
Miravis Prime, very importantly, has a one-day withholding period in berries, so it can be used close to harvest to protect against late-season disease. And with one-hour rain fastness, it offers growers flexibility of application when a rain event is forecast. Miravis Prime will be registered to control botrytis in berriesa, with additional control of powdery mildew in strawberries. It will be registered for use in both field and protected cropping. Product registration is expected early 2021. EDITION 5
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Plant Breeders’ Rights (PBR) and the unauthorised propagation of strawberry varieties Roger Broadley, Commercialisation Manager, QSGA & Jane Richter, QSGA Marketing Manager
Queensland Strawberry Growers ‘Association (QSGA) manages the commercialisation of subtropical strawberry varieties bred through the Australian Strawberry Breeding Program (ASBP) for the Intellectual Property owners, through a master licence arrangement. These varieties include Red Rhapsody, Rubygem, Sundrench, Sunglow, Suncoast Delight, Aussiegem, Scarlet Rose and many others. What is PBR?
How does someone apply for PBR to protect a new variety?
Plant breeders’ rights (PBR), also known as plant variety rights (PVR), are rights granted to the breeder of a new variety of plant that affords the breeder full and exclusive control over the propagating material (including but not limited to seed, cuttings, divisions, vegetatively propagated plants, tissue culture) and harvested material (cut flowers, fruit, foliage) of a new variety for a number of years.
The average time for Plant breeder’s rights registration is about two and a half years from start to finish. You will need to submit an application in two parts to IP Australia (www.ipaustralia.gov.au) and hire a qualified person to assist with a growing trial. There are fees at various stages of the process.
Where can you find more information?
PBR is a complex process, but the important take away is that any material over which PBR has been granted is fully protected by the laws of Australia and severe penalties can be applied to anyone who infringes that legal protection.
The Australian Government has an extensive website that gives you all of the information you need to understand the PBR of varieties within each industry. Visit www.ipaustralia.gov.au/plant-breeders-rights
What are the criteria for a new plant to be eligible for PBR?
How were the subtropical strawberry varieties developed?
A variety must be new, distinct, uniform and stable.
The original breeding program for strawberries in Australia was started by the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries around 30 years ago. The breeding of strawberry varieties starts with a crossing program, and then the growing and early evaluation of seedlings is a lengthy process spanning 5-7 years. The Australian Strawberry Breeding Program (ASBP) project for the subtropical node breeding program was tendered out by Hort Innovation and, through a competitive tender process, was awarded to the Queensland Department of Agriculture & Fisheries (QDAF).
• N EW – it has not been commercialised for more than one year in the country of protection • DISTINCT – it differs from all other known varieties by one or more important botanical characteristics, such as height, maturity or colour • U NIFORM – the plant characteristics are consistent from plant to plant within the variety • S TABLE – the plant characteristics are genetically fixed and, therefore, remain the same from generation to generation, or after a cycle of reproduction in the case of hybrid varieties
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It is important to note that any funds from the sale of these new varieties are returned to the IP holders â€” Hort Innovation and Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (Queensland) â€” where they may be re-invested in the future development of the Strawberry Industry in Australia.
QSGA has licensed several plant propagators throughout Australia to spread risk, and to minimise any disruption to growers of the subtropical strawberry varieties. For example, if there was a pest or disease outbreak occurring in one part of Australia, growers would hopefully be able to obtain plants from another geographic area. Having several propagators also provides competition and choice for strawberry fruit producers when ordering plants.
A recent policy change by the Hort Innovation Board means the PBR royalty funds currently held by Hort Innovation can be spent on activities outside of R&D such as marketing. SAI will consider the best use of these funds in upcoming meetings bearing in mind that they remain under the management of Hort Innovation.
Despite common belief, growing bare-rooted runners and plug plants for the Australian industry is a highly sophisticated and complex process, which requires considerable capital and long-term commitment. Unless special multiplication processes are put in place, it normally takes three years for a newly licensed propagator to produce the first crop for sale. This is usually the only business conducted by plant propagators and they rely on growers signing individual non-propagation agreements to stop unauthorised propagation. It is illegal to multiply plants by planting runners from newly planted plants, but original plants purchased may be ratooned two or three times.
Why is there a commercialisation partner? Once the varieties were fully assessed, the next task for Hort Innovation and DAF was to identify an experienced commercialisation partner. A tender was issued to the open market, and interested businesses were asked to submit a proposal against a detailed set of requirements laid out in the tender document called a Request for Proposal (RFP). Anyone based in Australia who met the RFP criteria could apply. The process of commercialising a new variety of plant requires a very detailed understanding of the legislative framework protecting intellectual property in Australia, the ability to tightly manage access to the new plant material through licensed plant propagators and the processes in place to manage the financial aspects of the arrangement.
Runners vs Ratooning When a strawberry runner is planted, the mother plant will send out runners (also known stolon). These can be detached from the mother plant and re-planted as a new separate plant. It is ILLEGAL to plant runners that have grown from purchased plants that are protected by PBR. Ratooning is the practice of cutting away most of the above-ground portion of a strawberry plant but leaving the roots and the crown intact so as to allow the plant to recover and produce a fresh crop in the next season.
Why was QSGA selected in the tender process?
This practice is not recommended but is LEGAL to perform.
An independent panel set up by QDAF assessed all of the tender applications and QSGA was selected to commercialise the subtropical strawberry varieties. QSGA now has several years of experience managing the commercial arrangements behind some of the most widely grown strawberry varieties currently in Australia. QSGA responded to the open tender using the knowledge and expertise it had built in the strawberry industry and was chosen by a competitive evaluation as the commercialisation partner for the new subtropical strawberry varieties.
This protects both the variety Intellectual Property owners by ensuring proper royalties are collected and the propagation businesses whose income is based on licensed plant propagation sales. Please note that innocent infringements can occur.
Strawberry runner with new 'daughter' plant that should be removed and destroyed. Photo credit: Anest, Shutterstock
Why do we need royalties?
Usually, it is collected by the licensed nursery, and grower purchasers sign a non-propagation document before plants are delivered.
Breeding programs are expensive and take time. They involve crossing and selecting different varieties, germinating seeds from the cross, planting seedlings and measuring many facets of their performance.
What should you do if you become aware of unauthorised propagation?
For strawberries, one cycle may take several years from germinating a seed to assessing performance of a single seedling, and then planting it again in a semi-commercial block of strawberries to evaluate commercial performance.
Contact QSGA (anonymously if you wish) and we will notify QDAF and Hort Innovation, and these IP holders will consider legal proceedings. Potential offenders need to be aware that the PBR Act allows for fines up to $111, 000 for unauthorised propagation (500 penalty points at $222 per point Federally).
Royalties make this process financially possible by providing an income stream for what would otherwise be an expenses-only undertaking. A royalty is a payment to the Intellectual Property (IP) holders of a new strawberry variety.
If in doubt, please contact QSGA, and discuss any issue with us. We plan to move to a satellite sensing system to monitor unauthorised strawberry plantings in the near future.
The IP holders can take a range of measures to protect their variety such as gaining PBR (a legislated framework with penalties for non-compliance), variety patenting and private agreements. The royalty can be charged in many ways, but in the Australian strawberry industry, it is typically a one-off plant royalty per thousand plants at the time of plant purchase.
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Powdery mildew — flattening the curve Michele Buntain, Anna Mackintosh, Associate Professor Katherine Evans - Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture The setting: November 2019, a pleasantly warm polytunnel of young strawberries at Costa Berries East Devonport farm, Tasmania. Here a cohort of student, research team and industry are planning a study of powdery mildew disease that will have direct benefit to the strawberry industry. Our student researcher in this story is Anna Mackintosh, University of Tasmania fourth year Agricultural Science Honours student and recipient of the Costa Honours scholarship. She is set to embark on a study of this increasingly important strawberry disease, supported by the Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture (TIA) and Costa Berries.
Powdery mildew disease of strawberries has most recently come to prominence in Australia with the move from field to protected cropping, particularly in Tasmania where most strawberries are grown in polytunnels in substrate.
The poly tunnel environment — a match made in mildew heaven Anna’s research showed how a polytunnel environment creates the perfect storm for strawberry powdery mildew infection. “Powdery mildew is a disease that thrives in low UV, mild temperatures and high humidity. Throughout the study, conditions in the tunnel were ideal for powdery mildew development. Temperature was in the optimum range 87% of the time and humidity 61% of the time,” Anna said. Fundamental to managing a disease like powdery mildew is understanding how the disease develops in both time and space, how fast epidemics develop and how the disease spreads. This is called epidemiology and formed a major part of this study. In a golden opportunity for Anna, Costa Berries provided a tunnel of strawberries that received no powdery mildew sprays for 91 days of the strawberry season. The picture it painted was not pretty, but incredibly revealing. A whopping 60 hours and 38,000 leaflets later, Anna plotted the curve and mapped the disease showing how dramatically powdery mildew can take hold when no management is in place.
Anna Mackintosh, TIA. Photo credit: TIA
“I assessed disease incidence, which is the number of leaves with powdery mildew symptoms, and disease severity, which is the area of leaf tissue affected by powdery mildew. By the end of February disease incidence reached 95%, meaning almost the entire crop was infected with powdery mildew. Disease severity reached 14%, meaning that 1/8th of the total leaf area was covered by mildew. Put simply, to prevent an epidemic, disease management needs to be applied early in the season before symptoms appear,” she said.
The scholarship, alongside support from the Costa strawberry farm in East Devonport, allowed me to invest in a project that has direct benefits to industry, Anna said. SUMMER 2020
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The research trial tested the current commercial program alongside three variations, applied in a two-week rotation:
Whilst the disease was at a low level at the start of this study (2% incidence) it was scattered widely throughout the tunnel with no obvious entry point. Over time, the disease formed localised hotspots with the southern side of the tunnel favouring disease.
Commercial practice = Systhane alternating Ecocarb Variations: 1. Systhane alternating Ecocarb + SARSil
Flattening the curve — a management strategy for Powdery mildew
2. Systhane alternating Ecocarb + Basal leaf removal
Unlike people, strawberry plants cannot socially distance. This means other strategies such as hygiene, environmental management and fungicides are necessary. Prevention and suppression of powdery mildew relies on a relatively narrow choice of chemical options, only recently expanded with the release of cyflufenamid (Flute®). With the strawberry season in Tasmania extending over nine months, this also adds a logistical challenge for chemical rotation and resistance management.
3. Ecocarb alternating Ecocarb
With active ingredients • Systhane (myclobutanil) • Ecocarb (potassium bicarbonate) • SARSil (potassium silicate) The research team chose treatments based on the following logic: (1) Silicon is a compound that has scientific evidence supporting its ability to suppress powdery mildew in a range of crops; (2) Removing basal leaves aims to reduce the humidity and provide less favourable conditions for powdery mildew around the plant; (3) The Ecocarb/Ecocarb treatment substitutes the single mode of action chemical Systhane with the multisite fungicide, Ecocarb.
One of the key questions posed by the Costa team at the beginning of the study was “How effective is our current management program based on myclobutanil (Systhane®) and potassium bicarbonate (Ecocarb®) and can we improve this?”
Powdery mildew symptoms on strawberry showing white mycelium. Photo credit: TIA
Mid-late season spread of powdery mildew in an unsprayed tunnel of strawberries
Silicon uptake: Foliar versus coir application
Anna’s results showed that whilst there was no difference in disease incidence (the number of leaves infected), there were clear differences in disease severity due to the treatments. Supplementing the commercial program with SARSil and replacing Systhane with Ecocarb both significantly reduced powdery mildew severity compared to the standard commercial program. In a surprising twist, removing basal leaves increased disease severity. Anna suggests a possible reason for this. “When you remove leaves, plants compensate by producing a flush of new growth. These young leaves are much more susceptible to powdery mildew infection than older leaves and so ironically we saw the opposite to what we were trying to achieve,” she said.
The positive results with SARSil prompted Anna to investigate silicon a step further. From her reading of the literature she noted that silicon is not effectively absorbed by leaves for many plant species. This raised the question ‘what is the best method of application?’ In a glasshouse strawberry trial, she applied recommended rates of potassium silicate either as foliar sprays or as a liquid drench to the coco coir media. Leaf application resulted in over double the level of silicon in leaf tissue compared to media application. This provides industry with a greater level of confidence in the benefits of applying potassium silicate as a foliar spray as part of their fungicide program.
Predicting disease severity
Does strawberry powdery mildew produce viable overwintering spores in Tasmania?
Anna also found that a close relationship exists between disease incidence and severity. Validating this relationship in different situations and over different seasons could be used to produce a rapid monitoring and prediction tool for powdery mildew severity.
Strawberry powdery mildew is host-specific and parasitic on living tissue. Whilst strawberry powdery mildew most often survives overwinter as mycelium on partially dormant green tissue, it can also produce persistent spores from sexual reproduction that overwinter in the absence of leaf material.
Management affects fruit quality A snapshot look at fruit quality in March 2020 also demonstrated the positive effects of both SARSil and Ecocarb. The SARSil supplemented treatment and the alternating Ecocarb treatment both produced the sweetest fruit, measured as brix percent. Fruit from plants with basal leaves removed were softer than fruits from all other treatments. This supports the idea that these plants produced a flush of young new leaves which may lead to softer fruit.
When disease levels are high, there is a greater chance of different mating types converging to produce the overwintering spore bodies called chasmothecia. These are significant to industry as they have the potential to both reinfect the next crop and allow the fungus to develop mutations such as fungicide resistance. In this research study, Anna collected leaflet samples in spring to look for chasmothecia and viable spores. She found many structures with the physical characteristics of chasmothecia. However, when these were physically squashed open, no spores were found inside. They were more abundant on leaves from the unsprayed tunnel than fungicide treated tunnels. This raises the question as to whether the collection time or the overwintering environment impacted on spore production. The likely presence of chasmothecia does raise warning bells for the potential of strawberry powdery mildew to produce overwintering spores in polytunnel grown strawberries in Tasmania but requires more investigation.
Anna Mackintosh assessing strawberry fruit firmness and sweetness at the University of Tasmania. Photo credit: TIA
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Implications and future research
• Crop protection needs to occur early, before symptoms become apparent, especially when environmental conditions of temperature and humidity favour powdery mildew.
• The improvements seen in powdery mildew suppression with SARSil amendment or exclusive use of Ecocarb® in the fungicide program is a positive result. This has benefits for both mildew management and preserving the limited chemistry available by including these options as part of a resistance management strategy. The use of sulfur in the early program is an alternative that could be assessed.
• A mending the spray program with potassium silicate (SARSil) had a positive effect, providing added suppression of powdery mildew and improving fruit quality.
• P olytunnels in their current form remain an environmental bliss point for powdery mildew. Designs that allow better humidity management combined with tunnel orientation and siting for air movement are ideals that could improve strawberry powdery mildew management.
• S ubstituting the single mode of action fungicide Systhane® (myclobutanil) with the multisite fungicide Ecocarb® (potassium bicarbonate) reduced disease severity. • F oliar application of the potassium silicate product SARSil to strawberries results in leaf uptake of silicon whereas application to the growing media was less effective.
• F urther investigation of powdery mildew inoculum sources in the whole lifecycle of the strawberry, from propagation to winter hygiene, could help reduce disease pressure.
• S tructures resembling the overwintering spore bodies of powdery mildew (chasmothecia) were found on leaves of tunnel grown strawberries in Tasmania, but no spores were present. This requires further research.
• N ew technologies such as UV light treatments offer exciting possibilities when teamed with more multipurpose automated application technology via automated tractors.
Acknowledgements: Thanks to the team at Costa Berries, East Devonport, particularly Kaylia Marshall and Alejandro Haro for their invaluable mentoring and assistance with the research trial. Anna’s TIA supervisory team included Associate Professor Katherine Evans, Associate Professor Karen Barry and Michele Buntain.
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Queensland strawberry industry celebrates in style Bron Ford, Queensland Berry Industry Development Officer
Industry Young Gun — Rookie of the Year Award was presented by The Pump House to Ashlee Harrison from Harrisons Harvest.
The Novotel Twin Waters on the Sunshine Coast was painted red and gold for the annual Queensland strawberry industry dinner and awards night held on Friday 30th October. Just under 200 growers and industry supporters got dressed up and attended the event which was challenged by a number of restrictions associated with COVID-19 including border closures, no dancing allowed, adhering to social distance and traceability requirements. The dinner kicked off with pre-dinner drinks and canapes sponsored by the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries in the alfresco area of the resort. An array of Kubota tractors supplied by AllClass Machinery also provided an impressive backdrop and certainly allowed the night to get off to a great start.
Award accepted by Michael Bevege from The Pump House on behalf of Ashlee Harrison who was unable to attend the evening.
RDA West Moreton provided sponsorship of the MC for the event which was skilfully conducted by Ian Skippen, former radio host from B105 and Triple M. Rivulus were also major sponsors supporting the entertainment for the evening provided by the duo “Heidi & Scott”.
Ashlee is a third-generation farmer from the Elimbah area and was involved in all farming activities from a very young age. She has always displayed a keen interest in all aspects of the farm including plant health, soil management, machinery, harvesting, packing and distribution.
The beverages flowed throughout the night thanks to TriCal. As always, the awards part of the night was inspiring, and it was a fabulous opportunity to recognise a variety of people putting their heart and soul into the strawberry industry.
After leaving school, she moved away from the district and pivoted from agriculture to the mining industry. She was based in central Queensland in various mining operations for a number of years before returning to the family farm in 2019. She provides critical assistance and managerial support in all aspects of the business including administration, farming operations, pack shed management, distribution and marketing. The family have always been amongst the quiet achievers in the industry with a focus on producing high quality strawberries. As the next generation coming through the ranks, it is a pleasure to see the positive attitude towards the industry and the farm shining through with a real thirst to learn and adapt to change.
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Industry Employee Engagement Award presented by FMC to Hamish Payne from Ashbern Farms
Strawberry Industry Services Award for Excellence in Service Delivery through COVID-19 presented by Bundaberg Fruit & Vegetable Growers to Lisa James from IComply
Award accepted by Hamish Payne (centre), with QSGA President Adrian Schultz (left) and Kevin Melmeth from FMC (right)
Award accepted by Lisa James from IComply (centre), with QSGA President Adrian Schultz (left) and Bree Grima from BFVG (right)
Hamish has been involved in all areas of the farming operation for over 14years, starting out in the fields as a picker, then a supervisor and more recently as a Pack Shed Supervisor.
IComply was established in 2018 to meet the growing requirements on horticultural producers to address increased compliance requirements. Compliance is necessary in the modern changing markets with most marketing companies and retailers requiring third party food safety certification and traceability. This company supports strawberry businesses to make certain that the necessary policies and procedures are in place to ensure continued business growth and strengthened business relationships.
Coming from New Zealand and having grown up on a farm, he is no stranger to the demands of farm life and the principles of farming. He has a wealth of knowledge of strawberries from years in the fields and shed and is always happy to share this to ensure the company packs the best punnets possible, as efficiently as they can. He is highly respected by everyone he works with and motivates people to strive to work to their fullest potential. He maintains a positive environment with all staff where they feel valued, part of a team and working together towards a common goal. He will go out of his way to help anyone.
In early March this year, the company hosted a very informative and detailed workshop to highlight the risks and challenges that could potentially impact the strawberry industry due to a new virus called COVID-19 that was starting to impact the world and Australia. The workshop that attracted more than 55 strawberry growers heard about the potential issues that might come to play throughout the winter production season. The workshop was almost a “Nostradamus” type of activity in that everything that was highlighted during that workshop which was held quite early on in what we now refer to as “the pandemic” has all occurred.
Through all the crazy times in recent years, Hamish has been a calm and steadfast support as Ashbern Farms navigated through the various crises and adapted to accommodate any changes needed.
Throughout the strawberry season this company has also been instrumental in supporting many growers develop and implement Health Management Plans that were a mandatory requirement of the state Government for anyone employing a seasonal workforce. Behind the scenes of this company is a pocket rocket that has 20 years’ experience within High risk food industries. Lisa James has significant experience and is now considered a professional quality food safety specialist. This amazing person has in depth knowledge of food safety systems, effective quality control procedures which has led to HACCP, Food safety and 3rd party accreditations at the highest level. Lisa has been instrumental behind the scenes of this company providing significant awareness, support and assistance to strawberries growers to address the complexities brought on by COVID-19.
Ashbern Farms' site at Beerwah. Photo credit: Fran Flynn
Outstanding Contribution to the Industry Award presented by Opal to Luigi Coco
Exceptional Women in Industry Award presented by Bugs for Bugs to Tina McPherson
Luigi Coco accepting his award
Award accepted by Tina McPherson (left), with QSGA President Adrian Schultz (right) and Paul Jones from Bugs for Bugs (centre)
Luigi was elected in a voluntary capacity onto the management committee of QSGA more than 15 years ago.
Tina has travelled the world holding meaningful roles in both tourism and farming businesses until finding a special spot in Queensland to grow strawberries. This first-generation strawberry farmer has a passion for supplying high quality produce which has generated a strong customer following in high-end retail outlets in NSW and Victoria.
In this time, he has been very active providing input, driving research and development, developing overseas market projects and organising field days and award nights. He has represented Queensland strawberry growers on the Strawberries Australia board for many years and his input has been invaluable to the whole of Australia.
Tina is a fantastic advocate for the industry and is the “go to” person for local media to highlight the start of the strawberry season, generate consumer interest in strawberries, encourage community support for the industry and inspire increased consumption. The locally famous farm gate store that is open all year round, incorporating a highly successful “pick your own” feature during winter and spring has helped to elevate the business to being one of the top tourism ventures in the area. One visitor on Trip Advisor described the farm as a “Wonderful, authentic farm experience which is truly 'Paddock to Plate’ with welcoming, friendly owners and staff” and a growing reputation for producing ice cream described by many as “the best they have ever eaten”.
Luigi is reknowned for helping his fellow Australian strawberry growers wherever he can. His advice and support are cherished in the industry. Through persistent political negotiations and a “never give up” attitude, he was able to achieve the granting of a second working holiday maker visas in the Caboolture area. This change in federal legislation has helped the industry and the Moreton Bay region immensely. A further major activity that has been driven by Luigi has been the highly successful commercialisation of the DAF bred strawberry varieties. This program has been fundamental to the long-term financial viability of QSGA and has created a commercial business arm to the organisation that has grown significantly to now include the commercialisation of macadamia varieties. He guided the industry through its darkest days during the tampering crisis and provided ongoing emotional support to many growers throughout this period. We are very grateful for the commitment and passionate work ethic Luigi has demonstrated and we are also extremely aware of the sacrifices his family members have made over the years in on-farm operations and also the impact on family time during the evenings.
Fabulous strawberries at Tinaberries in Bundaberg Photo credit: Tinaberries
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Strawberry fire pit Photo credit: TriCal
Pims Mens on her farm at Glass House Mountains Photo credit: Jane Richter
A further highlight for the evening was the auction of a custom-made fire pit that weighed in at 250kg, designed for the event and kindly donated by TriCal. The fire pit was built by recycling a cylinder that soil fumigants are imported in and the detail included strawberry shapes on the edge and on each leg. After some fierce bidding, Pim Mens from Pims Organic Strawberries triumphed and her winning bid of $1,600 will be donated to “The Common Good – an initiative of the Prince Charles Hospital”. The Queensland strawberry industry has had a long association with The Common Good and this donation will contribute to their research priorities that focus on heart and lung disease, arthritis, dementia and hospital care.
All other images provided with thanks to Ashley Walmsley from Good Fruit & Vegetables
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HEALTHY FIELDS. HEALTHY YIELDS. FUMIGATION
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Developing knowledge & management of strawberry red leaf disorder – Hort Innovation project: BS19001 Michelle Paynter & Joanna Kristoffersen, Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries
Red Leaf Disorder (RLD), characterised by reddish/maroon discolouration of strawberry leaves, has become more noticeable since its first sightings in 2014 in cultivar ‘Fortuna’. It is now present in several commercial cultivars grown during Queensland’s winter production. Currently, there is no definitive scientific evidence of the cause of RLD in strawberry, making diagnosis based on symptoms alone challenging. Investigations to date covering a wide range of potential causes of RLD by the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (DAF), University of Queensland (UQ) and AgriBio have found no obvious single causal agent, suggesting that the disorder and mechanisms behind its transmission may be quite complex. Thus, there is currently no standard for strawberry producers and advisors to accurately identify and manage plants with RLD. Running in conjunction with the ongoing DAF investigation, a new Hort Innovation funded project (BS19001), was established in August 2020, to identify and better understand possible causes of RLD in strawberry via expanded genetic studies. The major focus of the project will be to: • Identify the cause of RLD conducting detailed DNA analyses of strawberry plant samples coupled with pathology and microscopy studies • I mprove knowledge on RLD identification and collate a potential management guide to provide growers with tools for identification and management of RLD
Photo credit: Michelle Paynter, DAF The cause of RLD is unknown. In 2019, over 40% of the growers surveyed estimated up to 20% of plants were affected by RLD. These plants typically display reduced vigour and yield. The implications for industry may potentially be significant if the cause of this disorder is not identified and managed.
• E stablish a network and communication channel as part of a ‘Communities of Practice’ • Present project updates at industry meetings/events • Develop a pathway for a potential RLD PhD study
and spread), potential causative agents, nutrition and economic impact of strawberry RLD. Outcomes from Phase 1 will include information back to growers on potential causes of RLD and be used as the basis of a proposed collaborative DAF/UQ four-year study (Phase 2). It is proposed that Phase 2 will be underpinned by a PhD project, to fully research the causal mechanisms and provide management options for the industry. The team, led by Joanna Kristoffersen and Michelle Paynter, consists of a large cross-organisational and multi-disciplinary team from DAF (Dr David Innes, Apollo Gomez, and Dr Jodi Neal), UQ (Professor Peer Schenk, Reuben Brown, Kapah Alu) and AgriBio (Dr Fiona Constable and David Lovelock).
RLD team: Top (L-R): Michelle Paynter, Peer Schenk, Reuben Brown and Jodi Neal. Bottom (L-R): Kapah Alu, Joanna Kristoffersen and Apollo Gomez. Photo credit: Christopher Menzel, DAF Through a close collaboration between DAF and UQ, this project is divided into two phases. Phase 1 (6 months) will expand on existing discovery-driven next generation sequencing analyses undertaken by DAF, UQ and AgriBio to identify potential pests and diseases common to plants with RLD symptoms. In addition to DNA analyses, which will include an expansion in the number of farms and severity of RLD sampled, gene expression studies will be undertaken. Understanding how symptomatic plants are responding to RLD may help identify potential causes of the disorder. This phase of the project will complement DAFâ€™s existing multi-disciplinary research activities investigating epidemiology (i.e. incidence
Each have extensive experience including plant pathology, bioinformatics, data analysis and information management of genomic, metagenomic, pangenomic and transcriptomic data for diverse applications including diagnostics and discovery.
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banish botrytis for beautiful berries
t Strong protectant action t Soft on beneficials t Flexible use pattern SUMMER 2020
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Innovation. Quality. Solutions. Â® Kenja is a registered trademark of Ishihara Sangyo Kaisha, Ltd. 201109
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Potential impacts of global warming on fruit size in strawberries in south-east Queensland Christopher Menzel, Principal Horticulturist, Department of Agriculture and Fisheries
Global warming is likely to have a large impact on the growth and yield of strawberries. Experiments were conducted to investigate the relationship between fruit development and temperature in plants growing in south-east Queensland. The percentage of fruit smaller than 12 grams was higher when the average daily mean temperature in the seven weeks before harvest was 18oC to 21oC and lower when the temperature was 16oC to 18oC. None of the cultivars produced large berries at the end of the growing season. The effect of higher temperatures on fruit growth will contribute to lower yields under global warming. There is an urgent need to develop heat-tolerant cultivars or other mitigating strategies to reduce the impact of these changes on commercial strawberry production.
growing conditions. Keeping global warming to within 1.5oC is less problematic for sustainable production than global warming to within 2.0oC. There is limited information on the impact of climate change on strawberries. Higher temperatures will alter the production season and the pattern of plant development. This article reports on the relationship between fruit growth and temperature in strawberries growing in south-east Queensland. Four cultivars were grown under tunnels or in the open field and information collected on yield, fruit size and temperature. The relationship between the incidence of small fruit and temperature was determined.
Global climate change will increase both the temperature and the concentration of CO2 (carbon dioxide) in the atmosphere. These changes will increase the rate of photosynthesis in the leaves of many crops, however this increase will be off-set by excessive leaf production and decreases in flower and fruit development. Overall, higher temperatures will have a greater effect on productivity than higher concentrations of CO2.
What we did We planted transplants of ‘Festival’ and ‘Fortuna’ and two breeding lines in late March at Nambour. Half the plants were grown under plastic high tunnels, while the other half of the plants were grown in open field plots. We harvested fruit every week for an assessment of marketable yield (fresh weight). Mature fruit were harvested and were classified as those that were at least three-quartered coloured. Fruit that were smaller than 12 g or affected by rain or grey mould or misshapen, or that had other defects (mainly other disease, surface bronzing or bird damage) were considered non-marketable.
Some crop models predict higher yields in the shortterm with climate change and lower yields in the longterm, while other models predict lower yields across both periods or even under current conditions. There can be difficulties in predicting yields under climate change because the changes in CO2 and temperature, etc. vary across different regions. There are also uncertainties in how individual crops respond to
We also collected temperature data at the site under the tunnels and in the open field plots. The relationship between the percentage of small fruit (less than 12 g fresh weight) and average daily mean temperature in the seven weeks before the fruit was harvested was determined in the different growing areas. This period covered both flower and fruit development in the berries.
‘Rubygem’, and then ‘Breeding Line No. 2’. Average fruit weight was higher in the two breeding lines than in the other cultivars, while the reverse was true for the incidence of small fruit (Table 2). There were linear relationships between the percentage of small fruit and the average mean daily temperature in the seven weeks before harvest in ‘Festival’, ‘Breeding Line No. 1’ and ‘Breeding Line No. 2’. In contrast, in ‘Rubygem’, there was a linear-linear relationship between the percentage of small fruit and temperature. A linear relationship indicates that the percentage of small fruit continued to increase as temperatures increased over the season. A linear-linear relationship indicates that the percentage of small fruit increased as the temperature increased, but there were different rates of increase in the early and late harvests. Overall, the percentage of small fruit was higher when the average daily mean temperature in the seven weeks before harvest was 18oC to 21oC and lower when the temperature was 16oC to 18oC (see Figure 1). This response is not likely to be associated with the small changes in day length and solar radiation recorded over the period.
What we found There were only small differences in average mean daily temperatures between the tunnels and the open field plots (Table 1). Mean monthly maximum temperature ranged from 22.9oC to 30.2oC, while mean monthly minimum temperature ranged from 7.2oC to 15.5oC. The lower temperatures were adequate for strawberry production. However, the higher temperatures were probably excessive for strawberry production. Plants under the tunnels had higher marketable yields than the plants in the open (Table 2). In contrast, there was no effect of growing system on average fruit fresh weight or on the percentage of small fruit. ‘Festival’ had the highest yield followed by ‘Breeding Line No. 1’ and
Table 1. Average mean daily temperatures and ranges in monthly averages during this study on strawberries in south-east Queensland. Data are the means of four replicates per treatment and are the averages from mid-May to mid-October.
Mean daily maximum temperature (oC)
Range in mean daily maximum temperature (oC)
Mean daily minimum temperature (oC)
Range in mean daily minimum temperature (oC)
Table 2. Effect of growing system and cultivar on marketable yield, mean seasonal average fruit fresh weight, mean percentage of small fruit over the season and maximum percentage of small fruit at the end of the season in strawberries in south-east Queensland. Data are the means of four replicates per treatment.
Growing system or cultivar
Marketable yield (g/plant)
Average fruit fresh weight (g)
Average percentage of small fruit over the season
Maximum percentage of small fruit at the end of the season
Breeding Line No. 1
Breeding Line No. 2
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Percentage of small fruit
Average daily mean temperature (°C) Figure 1. Relationship between the incidence of small fruit and the average daily mean temperature in the seven weeks before harvest in ‘Festival’ and ‘Rubygem’ strawberries in south-east Queensland. This period covered both flower and fruit development in the berries. The plants were grown in the open or under tunnels. Data are the means of four replicates per treatment.
Implications for commercial strawberry production
Conclusions The incidence of small fruit in strawberries increased over the season in south-east Queensland, and was higher in ‘Festival’ and ‘Rubygem’ than in the two breeding lines. The percentage of small fruit was higher when the average daily mean temperature in the seven weeks before harvest was 18oC to 21oC and lower when the temperature was 16oC to 18oC. None of the cultivars produced large berries at the end of the growing season. The effect of higher temperatures on fruit growth will contribute to lower yields under global warming. There is an urgent need to develop heat-tolerant cultivars or other mitigating strategies to reduce the impact of these changes on commercial strawberry production.
Temperatures before, during and after flowering affect fruit growth in strawberries. The results of the current study show that the incidence of small fruit in southeast Queensland was lower at 16oC to 18oC and higher at 18oC to 21oC. These findings are consistent with the results of the earlier study with ‘Festival’, where average fruit weight decreased by more than 50% as the temperature increased from 16oC to 20oC. The plants under the tunnels had a similar incidence of small fruit as the plants in the open. This was because temperatures were similar in the two growing systems, with the sides of the tunnels raised to improve ventilation around the plants. In contrast, there were differences in the incidence of small fruit across the four cultivars. ‘Festival’ and ‘Rubygem’ had a higher percentage of small fruit than the two breeding lines.
The Queensland government has funded the research through the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries. Many thanks to the Florida Strawberry Growers’ Association (FSGA) for financial support, and to Shane Mulo and David Innes from DAF for helpful comments on the article.
Higher temperatures affect many aspects of plant development in strawberries. In most cultivars, there is a broad temperature optimum for flowering and a narrow optimum for average fruit weight. These results suggest that the changes in fruit size are likely to be larger than the changes in flowering under global warming.
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Fungi associated with postharvest strawberries Agricultural Produce Commission (APC P1922 126) â€” Commonwealth Government Research Training Program (RTP) Within the fungi there are species that can cause devastating diseases that can significantly impact on strawberry production and decrease postharvest shelf life. In Western Australia, the information available on postharvest losses of strawberries caused by fungal pathogens is limited. Gathering information about fungal pathogens and minimising fungi associated with postharvest decays is imperative to maintain our reputation for high quality fruit of export quality.
The impacts of treatments on strawberries are being assessed based on physiological changes (colour, weight, firmness, and pH) as well as spoilage of fruit over 8 days. Table 1. Strawberry pathogens isolated from 17 different farms in Western Australia
A PhD project is running at Murdoch University focused on isolation and identification of fungal pathogens from postharvest strawberries. In the first phase of this research, 340 fungal isolates were collected from 17 different farms, from 7 different varieties of strawberries in the metropolitan region of WA (Figure 1 and 2). Based on morphological characteristics and sequencing of the internal transcribed spacer (ITS) region of the fungal DNA, 38% of the isolates were identified as Botrytis cinerea, followed by Cladosporium (25%) and several other fungal species (Table 1). Consistent with previous studies (Feliziani and Romanazzi, 2016; Petrasch et al., 2019), B. cinerea is the major strawberry pathogen, but the number of Cladosporium isolates in WA strawberries warrants further investigation. Our aim is to conduct isolations for the remainder of the current strawberry season and again in 2021, investigating the variation in the pathogen population over time and from different growing regions. We also hope to determine if there is variation in pathogens found on field grown vs hydroponically grown fruit.
Cladosporium cladosporioides complex
Alternaria alternata complex
Chaetomella raphigera complex
As a control measure, currently we are testing cold plasma (CP) and plasma activated water (PAW) as potential treatments for postharvest fungal pathogens of strawberries, to increase the shelf-life of fruit. Both methods have already shown potential against a number of fungal pathogens of berries (Li et al., 2019; Ma et al., 2016; Misra et al., 2014).
The overarching aim of this study is to isolate and identify the pathogens of strawberries associated with postharvest losses in WA. We are also planning further work on other berries, and larger-scale commercial application trials. For further information please contact Dr Kirsty Bayliss, K.Bayliss@murdoch.edu.au.
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Figure 1. Postharvest strawberries infected by the fungal pathogen Botrytis cinerea. Photo credits: Farhana Momtaz, Murdoch University
Figure 2. Cultures of different postharvest strawberry pathogens. Pathogens include a) Botrytis cinerea, b) Mucor piriformis, c) Cladosporium cladosporioides complex, d) Alternaria atra, e) Alternaria alternata complex, f) Aureobasidium pullulans. Photo credits: Farhana Momtaz, Murdoch University Authors: Ms Farhana Momtaz — PhD student at Murdoch University Dr Kirsty Bayliss — Academic Chair, Biosecurity & Food Security, Murdoch University Professor Giles Hardy — Director of the Centre for Phytophthora Science & Management, Murdoch University
Ma R, Yu S, Tian Y, Wang K, Sun C, Li X, Zhang J, Chen K, Fang J. Effect of non-thermal plasma-activated water on fruit decay and quality in postharvest Chinese bayberries. Food and Bioprocess Technology 2016; 9: 1825-1834 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/ s11947-016-1761-7.
Acknowledgement: We would like to thank the Western Australian Strawberry Growers Association for their financial support of this project (Grant number APC P1922 126). The PhD student, Ms Farhana Momtaz is supported by a Commonwealth Government Research Training Program (RTP).
Misra N, Patil S, Moiseev T, Bourke P, Mosnier J, Keener K, Cullen PJ. In-package atmospheric pressure cold plasma treatment of strawberries. Journal of Food Engineering 2014; 125: 131-138 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jfoodeng.2013.10.023.
References: Feliziani E, Romanazzi G. Postharvest decay of strawberry fruit: Etiology, epidemiology, and disease management. Journal of Berry Research 2016; 6: 47-63 DOI: https://doi.org/10.3233/JBR-150113. Li M, Li X, Han C, Ji N, Jin P, Zheng Y. Physiological and metabolomic analysis of cold plasma treated fresh-cut strawberries. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry 2019; 67: 4043-4053 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1021/acs.jafc.9b00656.
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ASPAA Strawberry Plant Standards and regulation of quality of both bare-rooted runners & plug plants Roger Broadley, Commercialisation Manager, QSGA
Queensland strawberry fruit producers anonymously participated in a survey in Autumn 2020 with roughly 50% of growers responding. This was a great result and QSGA thanks everyone for their response at a busy time of the year. The survey asked 19 questions and there was also a general comments section at the end of the survey, where producers could provide further information if they so wished. From the collated results, it was noted that there were some gaps in strawberry grower understanding.
The purpose of these two schemes is to facilitate the production of true-to-type, disease-free, healthy bare-rooted runners, plug plants or tips, which when planted in accordance with good practices and managed properly, will produce timely and economic quantities of marketable fruit.
Firstly, approximately 27% of growers did not know the current standards for bare-rooted plants, and a further 13% indicated they were not sure. When asked about current standards for plug plants, a greater number (53%) said they did not know what the standards were and a further 20% were unsure.
Each scheme outlines the procedures, standards and practices at all levels of nursery production to achieve the supply of certified quality plants for the strawberry industry, while balancing the interests of all stakeholders.
Who enforces bare-rooted runner and plug plant standards?
Toolangi Cooperative strawberry propagators are accredited by VSICA and other QSGA licensed propagators must be accredited by ASPAA. Being accredited by either VSICA or ASPAA is a very important part of obtaining and maintaining a licence to propagate PBR varieties managed by QSGA, and it is written into the licence contract. This condition is aimed at maintaining the highest possible plant health standards for production of either bare-rooted runners and/or plug plants for sale.
There are two bodies which oversee the accreditation of licensed plant propagators and the production of certified plants. A propagator must be accredited with either VSICA (the Victorian Strawberry Industry Certification Authority) or ASPAA (Australian Strawberry Propagators Accreditation Authority).
Under ASPAA rules, plant propagators are audited each year by an independent auditor approved by ASPAA to ensure that they are doing the best they can to produce consistent, high-quality plants. If they pass the audit, plants (whether bare-rooted runners or plug plants) can be sold as certified plants.
In terms of which entity is responsible for enforcing bare-rooted runner and plug plant standards, only 40% of strawberry growers were able to provide the correct answer, leaving 60% giving an incorrect answer or just not knowing.
If the audit is not passed, some corrective action may be required. This may be a minor or major corrective action. If the corrective action is not successful, plants may be sold as non-certified plants but under ASPAA guidelines, the plant propagator doing this must obtain from the grower-purchaser a statement in writing that they are aware that the plants are uncertified and that they are willing to purchase them. The whole system of ASPAA accreditation and plant certification is written in 26-page document which is a living document revised and updated regularly.
to time, but there should always be equal numbers of licensed propagators and fruit growers, with the objective of developing a consensus on all issues.
Who administers the schemes?
For bare-rooted, leaf-on runners, those complying with ASPAA standards may be labelled Certified Strawberry Runners or Certified Strawberry Plants.
VSICA is also administered by a Board, with an Independent Chair. More detailed information on the operation of VSICA can be found in the Autumn 2020 edition of the Australian Berry Journal. They have internal plant quality standards.
What are the ASPAA standards for strawberry plants generally?
ASPAA is administered by a Board, which consists of an Independent Chair (John Chapman), two licensed propagators (currently Wally Sweet of Sweets SR and Jack Beattie of JCLM Farming) and two QSGA fruit grower nominees (currently Adrian Schultz and Brendon Hoyle). Composition of the Board may change from time
They must be apparently free of pests, fungi, virus, weeds and parasitic nematodes. A tolerance of 5% not meeting the plug and plant standards described overleaf is permitted.
Stylised strawberry mother plant and daughter plant. Flowers are regularly removed from mother plants so fruit do not develop and seeds germinate. Image credit: Kazakova Maryia
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What are ASPAA standards for bare-rooted, leaf-on runners?
Uncertified plants Uncertified plants can only be sold after the purchaser agrees in writing to purchase such plants from the licensed propagator. Plant standards must be negotiated between the parties involved.
Plants sold as leaf-on must have: • a minimum of three expanded functional leaves • t he leaf stalk length must be less than 300 mm (12 inches)
What do I do if I believe I have a problem with plant quality?
• a developed root system with a minimum of seven primary roots and also have secondary roots visible
Preferably before planting in the field has occurred and whilst keeping plants in cold rooms, the first step is to contact your plant supplier, and discuss any problem you have.
• roots that are free of excessive soil and undamaged • s ufficient moisture on the roots to prevent plants dehydrating • a crown that is 6mm or more in diameter at its widest point and visually clean
Some suppliers have field representatives who can visit your farm and make an assessment of the plant quality issue. Photographic records can be taken and supplied to the plant propagator. The best solution at this stage, due to timeliness of planting requirements, is to constructively discuss the problem with your propagator.
• d ead leaves, runner stolons and debris removed before packing
hat are ASPAA standards for W bare-rooted leaf-off runners?
The second step is to record shipment details, including date, variety etc. and pass these details onto QSGA. Photographs are very helpful. If several growers have similar problems with the same variety at the same time, it could provide evidence that the problem might be related to a particular plant consignment.
P lants sold as leaf-off runners may be mowed immediately prior to digging and processing, and must have: • a crown that is 8mm or more in diameter at its widest part, with stems a minimum of 70 mm and 125 mm maximum in length, and visually clean
For example, a transport company may not have kept plants at the required temperature during long-distance transport due to a cooling system malfunction, so it is possible that a whole consignment might be affected.
• a developed root system with a minimum of nine primary roots and also have secondary roots visible • p rimary roots must be at least 100mm (4 inches) in length
The third step, if the problem cannot be satisfactorily resolved with direct negotiations with your propagator, is to contact ASPAA (John Chapman, Chair, 0408 986 751) for assistance with the matter. ASPAA will appoint an independent third party to act as an arbitrator, but can also seek separate technical advice to make an objective decision. This must be done quickly and preferably before plants are planted.
• roots that are free of excessive soil and undamaged • s ufficient moisture on the roots to prevent plants dehydrating • d ead leaves, runner stolons and debris removed before packing
What are ASPAA standards for plants? Plants sold as plug plants must meet all other plant standards as for certified bare-rooted runners and must have:
Acknowledgement: A number of people and organisations have contributed to this article, including all of the strawberry fruit producers who responded to the Autumn 2020 survey, ASPAA Chair John Chapman and ASPAA licensed propagators. We thank them all for their time and advice.
• g ood growth and have well developed root systems visible throughout the growing media cell • well-established green tops with 2-3 healthy leaves • roots which are not clearly dead or discoloured • 90% of plants coming freely from their cells • 95% of cells containing a plant
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Profile: Neil Handasyde — Handasyde Strawberries & Café, Albany Western Australia Helen Newman, Berry Industry Development Officer, Agricultural Produce Commission
Neil is President of the Strawberry Growers Association of WA, and Chair of the Agricultural Produce Commission Strawberry Producers Committee. We take a behind the scenes look at Neil’s diverse operations. Neil grew up in Mount Barker on a sheep property with his 3 older sisters and 4 older brothers. His eldest brother, Ian (Deceased), started growing strawberries on the family property in 1972, laying the plastic of the first patch of strawberries with shovels, when Neil was just 4 years old. This gave Neil a taste for strawberries and, in 1991, he purchased a 36ha property in Albany where he started his very own strawberry farm.
many of the organic technologies and practices were seen as snake oil, today they are valuable tools used by a broad spectrum of growers, including broadacre agriculture” The Handasyde’s expanded their operation in 2018, purchasing a retiring grower’s property (15ha). That site is now home to their very popular café and value-adding side of their business.
“Albany seemed like the ideal location. The climate in Albany is cooler than Mount Barker, which is better for strawberries, and there is easier access to water and staff. The sandy soil also seemed good - I am slightly regretting that now though. We planted 60,000 runners in our first year here; we plant many more now, with 5ha under organic production and 12ha of conventional production in open fields.”
“This new property has allowed us to rotate our plantings to achieve a longer soil rotation and has given us the space and ability to value-add and diversify. “A ‘Value Adding Agribusiness Investment Attraction Fund’ grant from the State government last year allowed us to purchase an 80kg capacity freezedrying machine. The machine has helped diversify the business and has reduced berry wastage. We use it to process small and over-ripe fruit that would normally be thrown away. The freeze-drier preserves products through a process called ‘sublimination’. Products are frozen to -30oC, then under extreme vacuum heating, ice changes straight from a solid to a gas.
Neil and wife Lyn started to diversify into organics in 2006, spurred along by personal health challenges and community concern about the growing number of health and allergy issues associated with food products. "We are what we eat, and always will be, is our motto. Organics aligns with our values and gives us differentiation in the market; the higher price point of organically grown produce has helped offset the lower yields and higher inputs."
Freeze drying is 100% safe and leaves behind all the good bits like natural sugars, vitamins, minerals and most importantly flavour! You are left with the perfect snack food.
“Moving into organics was a big learning curve, which was really good. You need to challenge the way you do things and come up with better ways of tackling problems. It is very pleasing to see more businesses embracing softer approaches to growing. Back then,
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Freeze drying equipment
Handasyde's Forever Fresh Freeze-Dried Strawberries
The Handasyde ethos
“We have been processing our own strawberries, ‘Handasyde’s Forever Fresh Freeze-Dried Strawberries’, and a variety of other products under contract including truffles, apples, mangoes and even some high-protein meat destined for scientific research. Enquiries from other producers across the state continue to grow as new markets for freeze-dried products emerge. The health, taste and convenience of the products are being realised by households and high-end chefs alike. Freeze dried products are no longer just for astronauts, soldiers and mountaineers!”
“Paying it back to our community is important to us. We are incredibly grateful to the huge number of Albany residents who support local farmers first. We use Handasyde Strawberries and Café to sponsor a number of community groups and sporting clubs in the local area. We also ensure that everything we sell is made from locally sourced ingredients where possible and we use local suppliers and contractors for everything from garden statues, to honey, to earthworks and construction.
The Handasyde’s value adding ventures have also seen them produce their own lines of organic eggs, Gelato ice cream, jam, marmalade, relish, sauces and syrups. YUM! Neil is not one to shy away from applying for grants that help build his business. He recently received another state government grant for a bagging machine to package his freeze-dried products. “Packaging up freeze-dried products by hand is very labour intensive and costly. This new machine weighs, packages and seals the products in a light-weight bag, it also attaches barcodes and has a metal detector.”
We believe that having happy staff is the most important measure of business success. People are the heart and soul of our business, and our staff make it all happen. We treat our staff like family, and work hard to work with them when they are facing difficulties in and out of the workplace. A safe and welcoming physical and emotional environment is essential to the productivity and success of our business.
Grants for business development pop up regularly, targeted at initiatives that provide benefits to the economy, community, or environment in addition to the benefits provided to the receiving business. “When applying for grants, you need to be very clear on what they’re after. Give them a call and ask questions, don’t rely on your own interpretation of what they are asking for. Get help with writing the application too, you need to use the right wording and make sure your application aligns with the objectives of the grant.”
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Three continent raspberry rort exposed by Reuters Information sourced from the original article by Dave Sherwood, Reuters.com At its heart was a fraud centred on raspberries. Low-cost frozen berries grown in China were shipped to a packing plant in central Chile. Hundreds of tons of fruit were re-packaged and re-branded by Frutti di Bosco as Premium Chilean-grown Organic fruit, then shipped to consumers in Canadian cities including Vancouver and Montreal, according to documents prepared by Chilean Customs as part of its investigation. The agency calculated that at least $12 million worth of mislabelled raspberries were sent to Canada between 2014 and 2016.
In January 2017, Chilean Customs inspectors acted on a tip from a whistle-blower: The countryâ€™s prized crop of raspberries was under threat. Inspectors raided the offices of Frutti di Bosco, a little-known fruit trading company on the second floor of a tower block in downtown Santiago. The files, company data and sales records they seized revealed a food trading racket that spanned three continents.
FINAL DESTINATION Frutti di Bosco ships the majority of its berries to Canada
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN A food operation in the Heilongjiang Province of China
SECOND STOP IN CHILE Frutti di Bosco ships the berries to a packaging plany where they are fitted with labels that state they are a 'Product of Chile' and 'Organic' FIRST STOP IN CHILE Frutti di Bosco purchases form the middleman andimports them into Chile
CHILE MIDDLEMAN The frozen fruits are routed via a middleman in New Zealand
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Get Primed Much of that product, the documents showed, came from Harbin Gaotai Food Co Ltd, a Chinese supplier. Canadian health authorities later linked berries from Harbin Gaotai to a 2017 norovirus outbreak in Quebec that sickened hundreds of people. Canadian authorities issued a recall on Harbin Gaotai berries coming directly to Canada from China dating back to July 2016. What they didn’t realise is that Harbin Gaotai raspberries had also entered Canada through a backdoor during that period in the form of falsely labelled fruit shipped from Chile by Frutti di Bosco. The scheme, pieced together for the first time by Reuters, lays bare the ease with which mislabelled, potentially risky products can be slipped past the world’s health and customs agencies, even as authorities across the globe scramble to ensure foods entering their countries are free of a new scourge - COVID-19. Pulling off the fraud was relatively simple, the investigation revealed.
The Canada-Chile trade pact, which came into force in 1997, allows exporters to self-certify the provenance of their goods, trade experts said. The agreement allowed the mislabelled berries to enter Canada tariff-free, evading a 6% levy slapped on the same fruit imported directly from China, Chilean Customs documents show. More lucrative still, conventional fruit represented as “organic” could fetch premium prices, piggybacking on Chile’s reputation for safety and quality. Documents certifying the fruit as organic were faked, customs inspectors found. For the full story of the investigation, visit https://bit.ly/CCC-Rasp-Scam
for a new way to control botrytis
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Hort Innovation Raspberry & Blackberry Marketing Update Upcoming 2020/21 Campaign Belinda Van Schaik, Marketing Manager, Hort Innovation
To introduce the advertising creative which taps into opportunities ecognised, let us first set the scene:
To investigate areas of opportunity for raspberries and blackberries, a consumer research study was undertaken via research agency FiftyFive5 in March 2019.
Blackberries and raspberries add that little extra that can make a big difference to any meal.
The objective was to better understand market dynamics, consumer behaviour and areas for target market segmentation. A comprehensive assessment of the unique opportunities for Rubus was completed, to define a unique and optimum marketing strategy.
Brekky a little bland? Snack-time a bit underwhelming? Blackberries and raspberries bring a lot, with a little.
Key implications from the consumer research data, that have shaped the 2020/21 marketing plans include the opportunity to:
Flavour-wise, they punch way above their weight. They’ll add serious bling to your porridge, and a massive zing to your yoghurt.
• E xpand usage beyond special occasions, to an indulgence that can be enjoyed more frequently as a part of everyday dishes
Add some oomph, with blackberries and raspberries.
• L everage the leading strength of taste beyond snacking, to increase the number of occasions Rubus is purchased • I nspire consumers to consider Rubus during the meal planning stages, to become a more frequently planned purchase, reducing price sensitivity once in-store • D rive further momentum leading into peak Rubus season pre-Christmas and maintaining strong momentum through to April, corresponding with the main growing season (November to May and peak volumes December to April*)
*Source: Rubus Strategic Investment Plan 2017-2021
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The tagline ‘Add some oomph’ is a dynamic and vibrant expression of the benefits of Rubus and the excitement they bring. We will feature mouth-watering recipe images with headlines that stimulate the taste buds, awaken the senses and dial up flavour cues.
Advertising recipe images are in development – above images are a sneak peak of the proposed headline and supporting tagline
Recipe inspiration will showcase usage occasions where only fresh not frozen would suffice. Examples include raspberries sprinkled on a bowl of muesli and blackberries with yoghurt. The advertising messaging, use of colour and fonts will all work cohesively to demonstrate that every bite is full of flavour, succulent and juicy.
The partnership will feature articles profiling three social media influencers, showcasing their go-to quick meals that incorporate Rubus, starting with breakfast and moving through the day. The influencer will amplify this content further via their social media accounts. Rubus will sponsor ‘The Spill’ podcast where the hosts will highlight how Rubus are a must-have to elevate everyday meals. To listen in, visit mamamia.com.au/podcasts/the-spill. Finally, Rubus will feature as part of digital display and video across the Mamamia network.
The creative will be brought to life as videos and digital advertising. These will work in parallel to compliment the fresh berries website, Facebook and Instagram pages, which will highlight the myriad of ways Rubus can enhance everyday meals.
The partnership launches in January 2021 and will continue providing fresh Rubus content through to late April. The Good Mood Food is a bold marketing campaign motivating more people to consume more produce more often, with the message that when you eat better, you feel better. In the lead up to Christmas, Rubus will be featured in a 15 second online video. The script promises to be a light-hearted, relatable, and memorable message that encourages consumers to eat more raspberries and blackberries. To read more about The Good Mood Food campaign visit thegoodmoodfood.com.au
Follow @freshberries.com.au FACEBOOK-SQUARE facebook.com/lovefreshberries instagram instagram/freshaussieberries To support and promote the advertisements, a media content partnership with Australian news and lifestyle platform ‘Mamamia’ has been secured. Mamamia is a leading publication that reaches over five million Australian women each month. This loyal audience is an ideal fit with the Rubus target market which is described as ‘creative foodies with a female skew’.
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Redberry mite unpacked Michele Buntain, Dr Stephen Quarrell RB17000: Integrated Pest Management of redberry mite, Acalitus essigi, on blackberries
In the last three years blackberry production has catapulted into the Australian berry category, more than quadrupling production to over 1,400 tonnes. Running alongside this fast-growing industry is the redberry mite project undertaken by the Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture (TIA). The research is helping growers understand and manage this mighty little pest of blackberries. RBM impact
Redberry mite (RBM) is so tiny it can easily escape detection until it really starts to cause problems. It feeds on unripe blackberry fruit, causing uneven ripening. Part of the fruit stays hard and red whilst the rest is black and ready to eat, making the fruit unmarketable.
In 2017, Simon Dornauf of Hillwood Berries in Tasmania described the level of impact RBM could have. “We have experienced crop losses of up to 20 per cent due to redberry mite. It not only compromises our yield of first grade fruit but impacts on our harvest costs. Harvest is slower and more costly when there is redberry mite present,” Mr Dornauf said.
At the start of the RBM project the research team set out to answer some key questions: • What is currently known about RBM?
This was a common theme which came out in a survey of growers at the start of the project with others reporting up to 60 per cent crop loss depending on the variety.
• D oes RBM occur in all Australian production regions and if so, on which varieties? • W hat is the impact of RBM in commercial blackberry production?
Distribution of RBM around Australia in 2018
• H ow do growers currently manage pest and disease in blackberries?
A grower survey in early 2018 found the bulk of production of blackberries occurred in Tasmania and Victoria with small inputs from New South Wales, Queensland and Western Australia.
Gathering this fundamental information formed the basis of the project with the aim of developing both a monitoring program and integrated pest management (IPM) strategies for RBM.
At this time, production came from 81 ha, 11 different varieties with a little over half of all blackberries grown in protected cultivation or tunnels.
TIA project lead, Dr Stephen Quarrell emphasised that managing a pest such as redberry mite requires a whole system approach.
The three years of fruit and bud surveys has only detected RBM in blackberry samples from Tasmania and Victoria, which most likely reflects the perennial growing system used in these states and possibly an environmental preference.
“There’s quite a lot of detective work involved. It’s critical to understand not just the pest but also how other farm management practices could affect the mite’s predators, both the native species that are already there and the ones we deliberately introduce,” he said.
to be infested when wild blackberries were within 30 metres of the crop. Removal of wild blackberries, whilst not always an easy task, is a primary strategy to reduce RBM infestation.
Of the 11 different varieties tested, the public variety ‘Chester’ and Driscoll variety ‘BL454’ proved to be highly susceptible to RBM. Numbers in other varieties were low, however there were new varieties in the pipeline to keep the research team on their toes! Primocane varieties appeared safe with the production system not favouring the RBM lifecycle. However, the newly introduced Driscoll floricane variety ‘Victoria’ raised some concerns when high RBM levels were found in dormant winter buds in 2019.
Chemical management – softly, softly Dr Quarrell’s interest in chemical management extends beyond what growers are using for redberry mite. “Every chemical that is applied to a crop, whether it is a broad-spectrum fungicide or a highly targeted insecticide can impact on the whole dynamics of the system and timing can be critical. I was particularly interested in those chemicals with known negative impact on mite predators, such as the miticides and mancozeb and when they were being applied,” he said.
To date, this variety remains symptom free, but will remain under the vigilant eye of growers in the coming season. The early nature of this variety means dormancy is short-lived which might prove to create a less than favourable home for RBM.
The most recent research at Costa Group’s Bengeo farm allowed the team to study what happens under a reduced spray program, limiting miticides and mancozeb to pre flowering. This was backed up by studies in four other commercial crops, some with very low chemical inputs and others with full programs.
Integrated Pest Management (IPM) of RBM A good IPM program relies on knowing when and where your pest and predators are present (monitoring), using appropriate management practices and timing that may include cultural, biological and chemical options.
Key findings • A pplying a full spray program that includes miticides and/or mancozeb post flowering is bad news for predatory mites. Whilst this program is effective at keeping RBM numbers low, it impacts on the management of other pests such as two spotted mite, broad mite and aphid by knocking out naturally occurring and introduced predators.
Monitoring for RBM – a grower friendly method In 2018, University of Tasmania Agricultural Science Honours student, Hui Law, developed a new strategy for monitoring RBM in both buds and fruit. This overcame the old, laborious technique of using ‘sticky traps’ and incubators and replaced it with the rapid ‘shake and wash’ method. Ms Law also determined that sampling around 30 red fruit per block or 10 buds per block will allow you to reliably detect RBM if it is present in your crop.
• A reduced spray program that uses no miticides or mancozeb after flowering, supplemented with the predatory mite T. doreenae, provided a similar level of RBM control as the full spray program. It also allowed predatory mites to persist over the winter period, indicating the mite was happy to reproduce in the crop.
For details of the method and to download a guide to RBM symptoms, visit the TIA redberry mite webpage (www.utas.edu.au/tia) or on YouTube (www.youtube.com/tasinstituteofag).
• I n a ‘Chester’ crop with a long history of low chemical inputs, RBM numbers remained low throughout the project’s three production seasons. • T he window highlighted for successful RBM control is between the end of winter and flowering.
Cultural practices — Wild blackberries One of the key questions around wild blackberry management proved to be very revealing. 75 per cent of growers reported having blackberries on or near their farms. University of Tasmania Honours student, Hui Law found the relationship between wild blackberries and RBM incidence on farms to be very strong. She found that a commercial blackberry crop was more likely
The registration of sulfur (Apparent Sulfur 800 WG) for use in Rubus crops offers an alternative softer chemical management option from bud burst to flowering. Combining this with end of winter management using winter oils is a ‘softer’ option for growers that has low impact on beneficial species.
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Over three years the team collected and counted all the mites found in over 7,000 fruit and 2,000 winter buds. A selection of the mites extracted were then identified to species level by Entomologist Dr Jamie Davies from the Tasmanian Government’s Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment (DPIPWE).
Key findings Of the predators that we assessed, T. doreenae or “Doreen”’ was the only predator to offer control against RBM. In the multiple crops in Tasmanian and Victoria where “Doreen” was released, we recorded reduced RBM numbers. Redberry mite symptoms on fruit. Photo credit: TIA
Figure 1 shows the results of the spray reduction trial, where RBM numbers stayed low in both the “Doreen” rows and the full spray program rows. Dr Steve Quarrell. Photo credit: Peter Mathew Lending further weight to the potential of “Doreen” was the fact it was also identified from dormant buds eight months after its release, providing additional promise that this mite is producing multiple generations and may persistence in the crop between seasons.
Biological control – ‘Doreen’ the mightiest mite The project looked at three potential commercial biological control agents for RBM based on success in other crops on similar mite species and recommendations from Paul Horne from IPM Technologies and James Altman from Biological Services.
Does RBM cause redberry disease and how many is too many? Redberry disease is the damage attributed to redberry mite infestation. This link has been questioned over the years due to cases of mistaken identity where similar symptoms to RBM infestation have not coincided with an infestation. However, using wild blackberries as a model, the project was able to demonstrate a strong positive relationship between RBM numbers and the level of fruit damage. However, this may not be true for all varieties and is an area that needs further research.
1. Typhlodromus occidentalis (2018/19) “Occi” 2. Typhlodromalus lailae (2018/19 and 2019/20) “Lailae” 3. Typhlodromus doreenae (2019/20) “Doreen” Each season predators were released in multiple crops in both Tasmania and Victoria, in open field and polytunnel systems in known RBM sensitive cultivars ‘BL454’, ‘Chester’ and ‘Victoria’.
What’s next? Talking to growers is the best way to understand where to head next with research. The overwhelming response to date has been ‘we really need to better manage sucking bugs, mirids and green vegetable bugs’ in both blackberries and raspberries. These pests are being recognised as a barrier by growers wanting to take the plunge into both IPM and investing in biological control options like “Doreen”, as only non-selective chemical options are available to control these pests, but can have a detrimental impact on predatory mites.
Acknowledgements The research team are very appreciative of assistance from the team at Costa Group’s Dunorlan farms (Nandita, Alejandro, Chris and Jan), Cindy Edward, James Altman from Biological Services and all blackberry growers who have participated particularly Westerway Berry Farm, Fairview Hill, Blue Hills Berry Farm, Fruition by Nature. This project has been funded by Hort Innovation using the Raspberry and Blackberry Research and Development Levy and funds from the Australian Government. TIA is a joint venture of the University of Tasmania and the Tasmanian Government.
With the hugely positive outcomes from the RBM program, and the strong desire of growers to implement IPM, sucking pests are sure to be next in their sights.
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Aman on a mission â€” future proofing the industry Melinda Simpson, Berry Industry Development Officer, Blueberries & NSW, NSW Department of Primary Industries
Aman Lehl is a blueberry and raspberry grower based in Corindi, NSW. Aman has been working with NSW DPI in the Clean Coastal Catchments project to establish a demonstration site to showcase change and drive adoption of best management practices in the berry industry. The main purpose of this demonstration site is to investigate the effectiveness and practicality of capturing and re-using substrate drainage in blueberries (Figure 2).
I have always been interested in technology and enjoy working with it. With the recent drought, and the possibility of climate change, being more efficient with our water use is important to remain sustainable into the future. In addition to water, reusing the fertiliser could also have positive benefits for the environment and the wallet.
A key learning through this process has been that retrofitting a system to collect and re-use run-off can be difficult. It is far better to design a production system with the ability to collect drainage at the installation stage as this makes it much easier in the long run. The Lehl family have been growing blueberries since 1996. In 2016, they decided to diversify into raspberries and currently have 4.5 hectares under raspberry production. Since they were already growing blueberries and raspberries, blackberries seemed like a natural addition to the farm and so have recently plant one hectare of the blackberry variety â€˜Elviraâ€™. Aman has decided to set up his blackberries with a similar system employed in the Clean Coastal Catchments project, which for blueberries will capture all drainage with the aim of re-using valuable water and nutrients.z Aman is using the 30L Galuku Plantlogic drainage collection pots (Figure 3). These pots have centre holes which direct water into a channel which allows the collection of run-off (Figure 4). He is then pumping this drainage into holding tanks for treatment and then re-use. The water is treated with Ultraviolet (UV) light to disinfect the drain water, preventing the re-circulation of any disease problems.
Figure 1. Aman Lehl has recently set up 1ha of blackberries in Corindi. Photo credit: Aman Lehl
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Figure 2. Retro-fitted capture system at Amanâ€™s set up in his existing blueberries. Photo credit: Melinda Simpson, NSW DPI
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Plantlogic system in use for raspberry cultivation in Australia. Photo credit: Galuku
Cost is the biggest challenge in setting up a system that allows the collection of drainage. Currently it is very expensive to set up vs a normal run-to-waste system and this upfront cost will need to come down in order to encourage more take up amongst growers. It is estimated that by using this system, in the blackberries alone, Aman will be able to collect and re-use between 1 and 1.3ml of water per hectare per year. There is a lot to learn about how this system will work and the difficulties and issues that may arise in the future. Through this work we are trying to understand issues such as what is the adequate slope to prevent water pooling and draining properly. We will also be looking at how many cycles we can re-use the water before it becomes un-useable due to salt build up and what is the fate of the un-useable water? Probably the most relevant question individual growers would be asking as they read this article is what savings can be made on nutrient and water re-use and how long will this system take to pay for itself?
Figure 3: Plantlogic pot allows capacity to collect nutrient rich drainage water for re-use. Photo credit: Galuku â€“ Australian distributor for Plantlogic
With ever-growing concerns of drought, social license and states/councilâ€™s enforcement of better on-farm management of nutrient rich wastewater, the work and investment that the Lehl family has put in to installing and trialling this system should be acknowledged and appreciated as learnings arise for all of industry. Keep an eye out in future editions of the journal for updates on how the system is going and further lessons learnt. The Clean Coastal Catchments project is funded under the NSW Government's Marine Estate Management Strategy. The ten-year Strategy was developed by the NSW Marine Estate Management Authority to coordinate the management of the marine estate.
Figure 4: System installed in Amanâ€™s blackberries to collect nutrient rich drainage water for re-use. Image credit: Plantlogic
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Profile: Andrew & Steph Terry, Tasmanian Berries Claire McCrory, Berry Industry Development Officer, Rubus & Tasmania, Fruit Growers Tasmania
Andrew and his wife Stephanie are the pioneering couple behind "Tasmanian Berries" in the State’s North. Andrew Terry, Managing Director of Tasmanian Berries, grew up on a mixed farming operation in Tasmania’s north. Andrew graduated with a Bachelor of Business from the University of Tasmania and initially spent some time in the Tasmanian mining industry, before following his passion for horticulture. He started his horticultural journey as a pruner in a vineyard where he worked his way up to become the Vineyard Manager, all whilst studying for and completing a Bachelor of Viticulture. Andrew’s wife Steph grew up in Hobart and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts and a Bachelor of Law from the University of Tasmania. Since graduating, Steph has worked primarily in private practice and currently works part-time as well as raising the couple’s two young daughters, who help with determining the optimum ripeness of raspberries and blackberries. Steph assists in the long-term planning for the business’s growth and future projects, as well as dealing with legal issues and requirements for the business.
Getting started with berries In 2013, after much debate and consideration, Andrew and Steph made the decision to start a berry business and become independent growers for Driscoll’s Australia.
Tasmanian Berries was established in 2014, however, their first year wasn’t easy, and after months of farm use conversion, construction of poly tunnel infrastructure and installation of new irrigation equipment, the weather made things an even bigger challenge.
At around the same time, the opportunity to purchase an existing berry business (also producing for Driscoll’s), presented itself and the Terrys leapt into the industry with 10 hectares of strawberries, raspberries and blackberries over two sites in Central Northern Tasmania.
“We had about 80% of our strawberries (in ground) planted before a huge windstorm hit, devastating nearly three-quarters of our 10 hectares of tunnels. That was an expensive start to farming berries.”
As a part of the decision-making process, Andrew recalls it was in experiencing one of Driscoll’s Amesti strawberries that he was ultimately convinced to become a grower for Driscoll’s.
The berry in question didn’t look anything special; if anything it looked a little under-ripe. It was only when I bit into it that I was shocked at the fantastic sweetness and texture, and knew I was looking at something special. I remember thinking if this is what their superior genetics can do, this is going to be a good investment.
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Andrew Terry, Managing Director of Tasmanian Berries, inspecting early season raspberries. Photo credit: Tasmanian Berries
Growing the business Today, the 10 hectare site at Christmas Hills exclusively planted out to raspberries is now at full capacity; the Exton site is now 28 hectares and produces table-top strawberries and hydroponic blackberries.
The business manages its blackberry fruiting window with an early season schedule of staggered long-cane removal from cold storage, following with late season primocane blackberries fruiting in the autumn window. Traditionally, raspberries are produced on a double cropping system, whereby both a primocane crop in the autumn and a floricane crop in the summer are produced over a one-year period.
Having the two sites has been advantageous with staggering harvests and labour requirements; however, it is not always favourable when having to locate and move equipment between sites. Andrew as Managing Director, oversees the general management of the business, including the general operations and harvest, future expansions and business planning, research and development projects and employment matters including acquiring and managing accommodation facilities and maintaining accreditations under the Seasonal Worker Programme.
As the raspberry market matures, we need to find new ways to be able to spread the production curve over Tasmaniaâ€™s long season. The business is shifting its focus from the traditional methods of growing raspberries into utilising raspberry long canes to be able to focus on the best fruiting cycle of the plant when we want it to happen.
Andrew has a particular passion for the Rubus component of his business. Since being involved in berries, the demand for raspberries and blackberries has increased exponentially. Rubus berries now make up over half the Tasmanian berry production area, consisting of Maravilla raspberries and Elvira and Victoria blackberry varieties.
Looking beyond the farm Andrew sees the biggest challenge this year being access to labour. Tasmanian Berries source much of their seasonal labour through the Australian Government’s Seasonal Worker Programme, which has faced significant challenges this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
It’s exciting to be part of the momentum of the Rubus industry and contribute to understanding and perfecting how to grow each variety in Tasmania. Growers around the world are still figuring out how to best manage the crop and I love being part of this and sharing our knowledge.
These issues have prompted Andrew to become a representative on the RABA Board, and mark his initial entry into the agri-political space. “I’ve previously avoided the agri-politics, thinking that people won’t necessarily want to hear what I say or know what I do. I guess as I’ve gotten more into producing berries and the business has expanded, maybe if I have a bit more of a say by advocating grower needs and on how levies are spent, I hope to influence industry for the better.”
Being part of the Driscoll’s group is making available two seasons of knowledge per year, not just our own learnings from the farm. Keeping consumer focused Tasmanian Berries produce is sold under the Driscoll’s label in most Australian supermarkets, but Andrew says this is not the customer that he is focused on satisfying. “There’s a perception that Driscoll’s is the customer and the business we grow the fruit for, but really, it is the people who buy the fruit who are the ones to convince.” “My focus is on premium, quality fruit that will catch the eye of the shopper pushing a trolley down the aisle to pick up a punnet of my fruit and decide to make a purchase.” When asked if he had any advice for those wanting to start growing berries commercially, Andrew’s suggestion was: “Don’t do it by halves and don’t take any shortcuts, because growing good quality produce in a sustainable way is how the industry has come this far. If all growers continue to do this, it will further increase category demand and grow the industry for everyone.”
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