Soil wealth and integrated crop protection – phase 2 (VG16078) (SWICP), is a R&D levy funded project with a focus on helping growers deal with future challenges posed by changes in the natural and business/market environment as well as helping growers to implement efficient use of appropriate, trialled and tested new technologies as they become available.
The project does so by providing vegetable producers with the latest information on improved soil management and plant health, in a variety of formats that are readily accessible and easy to use.
The project is delivered jointly by AHR and RMCG. We asked Carl Larsen (RMCG), project communications and resource development lead, a few questions about how growers can make the most out of the Soil Wealth & Integrate Crop Protection – Phase 2 project.
What are the three top takeaways for Victorian vegetable growers from your project?
1. Learn, experience and connect is the extension strategy for SWICP and can be applied by growers to support their own processes of innovation and development. This involves finding information that is accurate, relevant and useful to their operation, seeing local examples through the Victorian demonstration sites to understand how new practices work on-farm and keeping up to date and learning from peers. Fortunately, SWICP offers support to every aspect of this process, and maintains a suite of resources made freely available on the SWCIP website. Some specific resources relevant to Victorian growers and service providers include:
- Exploring the application of precision agriculture: Koo Wee Rup demonstration site case study
- Soilborne Disease Master Class for the Vegetable Industry – Experiences from leading growers
- Werribee Farm Walk and demonstration site update – can ‘softer’ tillage work?
- Soil Borne Disease Series: Club Root
2. Innovation does not need to be expensive or complex. Innovation is practical change that arises from thinking about an existing problem in a different way. This could range from changing spray nozzles or calibrating your spray rig differently, shifting groups and modes of action in the pesticides you use to control insect pest, switching from a green manure cover crop to a biofumigant, investigating organic amendments like compost, or seeing how you can minimise tillage, and the list goes on! The key is to have a clear purpose – what do you want to achieve? – and ask yourself how might you do things differently, better, given the resources that are available. You can see some local innovation in action at the Victorian demonstration sites, which are part of a broader national network:
3. Healthy soils = healthy plants! Although the number of ways that a soil can be imperfect is endless, that also means that the number of ways a soil can be improved is endless. We have seen several examples throughout SWICP that have demonstrated the beneficial effect that improving soil health has on the crops produced, as made evident through the various case studies and demo sites. Plant health is closely linked to soil health in numerous ways so maintaining soil health is integral to ensuring the production of the best quality crop possible.
Where can growers access the findings of your R&D project?
You can access the information produced by this project via the SWICP website. The website includes information about events and demo sites as well as a library of articles and publications, case studies, fact sheets, global scans and reviews, podcasts, videos and apps, webinar recordings and more!
You can also follow the SWICP on twitter @SoilWealth & @ProtectingCrops, add us on Facebook, sign up for the monthly e-newsletter and/or join the Partnership Network – a new initiative that connects growers and service providers.
As a result of this R&D investment, what could/should growers do differently?
1. Maintain a systems-based approach to improving soil management and plant health. Be clear on the purpose for change, and what flow-on impacts this might have. For example, is your aim to improve organic matter in your soil, or reduce bed slumping? Perhaps it’s better managing insecticide resistance? A grower functions as an operations manager, agronomist, accountant, weather forecaster, human resources manager, marketer and the list goes on. It is important to keep this in mind when considering adopting new practices as any new practice will have flow-on effects to other parts of the production system and farm business.
2. Rethink what you’re doing and trial something different on a small scale. Are you calendar spraying pesticides? Why? Are your sprays becoming less effective? How? Are you seeing a decline in soil structure and reduced yield? Why? What’s preventing you from trying something new? Asking yourself these sorts of questions about your operation can shed light on opportunities and barriers to innovation.
3. Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. This one is self-explanatory. Through SWICP we give growers the tools to understand why they might be getting the result they are and what aspects of their operation they can consider changing to improve soil management and plant health. Don’t let the fear of failure prevent you from trying something new! Remember to think big, but trial small on your own farm to see what might work for you, before implementing the change on a larger scale.