A focus on taste for north Queensland strawberry farm

A Central Queensland strawberry farm says it is the flavour and picking techniques that make it so popular among consumers.

Ballantyne's Strawberries, near Mackay in north Queensland, is the only farm producing strawberries in the region. While the produce is only sold locally, farm visits and pick your own is a major part of the business owned by Margaret and Allan Ballantyne.

"Our people love our strawberries because we are the only farm that would pick on full colour," Mrs Ballantyne said. "We have got a really good reputation for our strawberries. People go looking for them - so they've got taste. Stuff that is picked down south, are all too green. My pickers are taught to pick on absolute full colour - they are not allowed to pick green fruit."

Source: freshplaza.com

Biosecurity legacy challenges - Tasmanian QFF incursion

Tasmanian berry grower, Craig Morris has reported to The Advocate his shelved  expansion plans and inability to employ as many people this summer, as he awaits the all-clear from fruit fly as he enters his second peak season unable to sell fruit.

He said it was “pretty disastrous” because summer is when the business aims to make enough money to see it through the year. Mr Morris said he was grateful to get government compensation for his wasted fruit.

“If we had not been compensated for fruit we would basically be shut down now,” he said. “The lion share of our customers come here, so it’s knocked the top off our shop - it’s pretty disastrous...it will take us a couple of years to get over.”

He expressed gratitude to those who came with ideas to utilise as many frozen berries as possible, such as a Devonport gin distiller and a wine maker. Rhuby Delights used some to make chocolate-coated freeze dried strawberries and Anvers used a tonne to make strawberry cake.

Fruit Growers Tasmania president, Nick Hansen, said the paperwork is with the Commonwealth to assess and announce a date to declare fruit fly free status.

He said the worst case scenario was January. He said it’s out of Biosecurity Tasmania’s hands adding “everyone is doing their best”.

Source: The Advocate

Queensland season – great quality and supply

Cold weather forcing a drop in production won’t drive strawberry prices too high, with supplies expected to explode again next month, as reported in The Courier Mail.

Queensland Strawberries president Luigi Coco said a strong start to the season meant consumers were spoiled with high quality fruit at ­affordable prices from May to June – but recent cold weather would slow things down a bit.

“If we have a normal winter from now on, production should be exceptional and the quality will be exceptional; more sunshine the better the taste,” he said.

“I believe strawberries are affordable now and I think they will only become more affordable.”

Sunshine Coast strawberry farmer Rick Twist said the quality of this year’s fruit was excellent.

“I expect the good quality will continue,” he said. “Strawberries are the regional Mars Bar.”

Source: Jill Poulsen, The Courier Mail

Year round New Zealand strawberries now a possibility

Dr Mike Nichols, a retired vegetable specialist, has been experimenting with winter strawberry production in New Zealand. He has recently announced an 18-month experiment of growing and harvesting strawberries year-round has been successful.

According to Dr Nichols New Zealand-grown strawberries may be available in winter soon; if the industry can make it financially viable.

"We've found if we plant at the right time we can get a reasonable crop of strawberries in the middle of the winter and that is quite a desirable characteristic for New Zealand because our imports of strawberries out of season come from Australia and United States of America, California and both of these countries have fruit fly.

"[Fruit fly] is a no-no bug for New Zealand because a lot of horticulture exports go into countries which are very conscious of fruit fly and we are a fruit fly-free country," Nichols said.

His success was due to the regeneration of runner shoots every month, where he has been able to keep the cycle of the delicious fruit ready to pick throughout each month.

Source: nzherald.com.nz

Robots to help with field logistics in the UK

An innovative British agri-robotics project is set to develop advanced autonomous systems to support the production of soft fruit. The University of Lincoln, Saga Robotics UK and Berry Gardens Growers Ltd have begun a two-year project called RAS-Berry. The project is the largest of its kind within the EU.

The robotics are being developed to transport heavy boxes of fruit from the picking point to the collection point, freeing up the time of workers to perform this manual labour task.

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According to an article on farminguk.com, robotic strawberry picking is still some years away, but the project will help human pickers by removing the burden of carrying full trays of fruit from the field to the collecting point on the field margin.

Source: freshplaza.com.au

Global: Research into strawberry varieties adaptable to climate change

An ambitious research project, led by the University of Malaga in Spain is looking to find berries that perform well, even in the most adverse climatic growing conditions.  The strawberry varieties, Candonga and Senga Sengana have been selected as part of the GoodBerry research project that aims to find berry varieties that are well-adapted to climate change.

The researchers are evaluating strawberry, raspberry and currant varieties that have been selected for their nutritional properties and because they have demonstrated potential to adapt well to climate changes. For strawberries, the varieties chosen are one that is very well-adapted to southern producing areas and another one that achieves the same performance in the north

The objectives of the research program include: objectives are basically:

  • To identify fruit germplasm that achieves a good balance between production and nutritional quality in the different countries of the EU.
  • To seek innovative production systems that make it possible to maintain a high production in a wide range of European environments.
  • To develop standardised and accurate analytical methods to evaluate the fruit's production and quality under suboptimal growing conditions.

Source: freshplaza.com

Biosecurity - Fruit Fly Update

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With several detections, biosecurity alerts and regionally specific updates on Queensland fruit fly and Mediterranean fruit fly, Temperate region Industry Development Officer, Angela Atkinson has prepared a summary of the latest information from across the southern states.

Note: Information in this update was correct at the time of publishing, please refer to relevant state agencies for specific updates.

 

Tasmania

The Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment (DPIPWE) is investigating the detection of a single adult male Queensland Fruit Fly in a house at Franklin in the State’s South. This follows a similar detection in a house in the Launceston suburb of Mowbray in April.

The detection of a single male fly is not considered an outbreak and does not require the establishment of a Control Area, nor does it indicate the presence of a breeding population in the area. Biosecurity Tasmania have an existing grid of traps in this area, which have been checked weekly through spring and summer, and no fruit flies have been found in these traps.

Surveillance of fruit trees in the area and monitoring of traps is continuing, although the information to date suggests the fruit fly has entered the State in imported fruit, based on the fact that it was found inside a house and outside temperatures are at a level where fruit fly are not expected to be active.

This detection does not impact on the fruit fly freedom status of the area.
 
The detection also highlights the important role the public play in biosecurity in being aware and reporting suspicious detections.

Even though fruit fly are not expected to survive the winter in Tasmania, it is important that growers and the community at large remain vigilant to signs of possible fruit fly incursions at all times of the year.

Biosecurity Tasmania’s focus remain the eradication of fruit fly and operations are continuing within the Northern Tasmania Control Area, and on Flinders Island. No further detections have been made in these areas.

As part of the eradication program

  • 88.66 tons of fruit fly host produce were collected and destroyed in February
  • 2,674 properties have been inspected by Biosecurity Tasmania across the two Control Areas
  • 493 traps are regularly inspected across the two Control Areas
  • 140 road signs and fruit disposal bins have been placed throughout the Northern Tasmania Control Area
  • Biosecurity Tasmania officers regularly visit growers, distributors and retailers throughout the Control Areas
  • Biosecurity Tasmania staff are attending markets, major events and community activities throughout the two Control Areas to engage communities and ensure control actions are implemented.

For more information click here.

An assistance package for businesses impacted by the detection of fruit fly in Tasmania is now available. For more information and to apply, click here.


South Australia

A new outbreak of Mediterranean fruit fly (Med-fly) was declared in Ceduna on South Australia’s west coast, following confirmation of larvae in the area on 14 June 2018.

This new outbreak is separate to the current outbreak in nearby Thevenard, which has now been extended due to further fly detections. This follows the original detection and declaration of a Med-fly outbreak in Thevenard on 11 May 2018.

A 1.5km radius outbreak zone was established around the outbreak centre, and a 7.5km suspension area established beyond the outbreak area.  Host fruit cannot not be moved from the 1.5km outbreak area. Commercial growers within the suspension area can apply treatments under accreditation to move fruit. These quarantine measures will remain in effect until at least November 21, 2018, if no more detections occur in the area. Further detections will increase the quarantine period.

For more information click here.

The suspension zone around the site of the earlier Med fly outbreak in Kilburn in February will be in place until at least 18 December 2018.

Quarantine restrictions in West Hindmarsh, Brooklyn Park and Woodville Gardens have now been lifted following the successful eradication program for an outbreak of Queensland fruit fly (Q-fly) in metropolitan Adelaide.

In April, a full-scale release of sterile Queensland fruit flies from the SITplus facility in Port Augusta  occurred over Adelaide, following a trial release in March. The success of the trial will be monitored using 4000 traps located around the state.


Western Australia

As of 19 April 2018, the Quarantine Area Notice (QAN) applying to Fremantle and parts of North Fremantle, East Fremantle and White Gum Valley, and the suspension of Queensland fruit fly area freedom within the 15km suspension area, have been lifted. The Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD) has declared the outbreak eradicated.

However, a new outbreak of Queensland fruit fly  was declared in the Como area in May 2018. An ongoing eradication program is underway. As part of the eradication program the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD) has established three zones:

  • A 200m radius Outbreak Zone around the detection point - additional traps have been deployed and checked regularly, host trees on private property and host street trees have been inspected and baiting carried out.
  • A 1.5km radius Quarantine Area - Non-commercial and home-grown fruit must not be taken out of the Quarantine Area unless it has been cooked or processed.
  • A 15km radius Suspension Area - Area Freedom for susceptible hosts within the 15km Suspension Area has been suspended, meaning host fruit cannot be exported from within this area without treatment or other approved protocol.

The current Quarantine Area Notice will remain in place until mid-October 2018.

The Quarantine Area Notice stipulates that ripening and fallen fruit must be disposed of every three days. Regular removal of fruit means that fruit fly will be unable to lay eggs and start the breeding cycle. Disposing of fruit and vegetables will kill any eggs or larvae.

Where fruit is inaccessible, wait until it has fallen to the ground and then dispose of accordingly.

Western Australia’s Area Freedom from Qfly, which underpins market access for a range of produce, remains in place for the remainder of WA.

For more information click here.


Victoria – Yarra Valley

Since the suspension of the Yarra Valley Pest Free Place of Production (PFPP) in February, there have been several further detections of QFF in Agriculture Victoria monitored traps within the PFPP. QFF has been detected in Wandin, Silvan and, most recently, in Coldstream. In addition to the flies caught in the trapping grid, there have been detections of larvae in fruit in residential properties in Warburton, East Warburton, Yarra Junction and Healesville, outside the PFPP.

QFF will not be active over the colder months, but will potentially survive over winter, becoming active again in spring. The flies over-winter as adults in protected areas such as citrus trees close to houses, where the microclimate is warmer.

It is important still to be vigilant and continue on-farm hygiene practices.

The Yarra Valley PFPP committee is working to ensure QFF does not become established in the Yarra Valley, and towards the reinstatement of the area’s pest-free status.

The possible use of Sterile Insect Technology (SIT) in early spring is being explored, as part of an eradication or control program.

QFF traps and bait sprays are available, for more information seek the advice of your agronomist.

If you find larvae in fruit (lemons are a common host for example) contact Bronwyn Koll (YV Fruit Fly Regional Coordinator) on 0490 381 999.

For more information click here.

Berry bowls from wood pulp

If you package your product, you aim for three things: that the content does not lose its quality, that it keeps looking pretty and that the packaging matches the product. However, with a greater consciousness of single use plastics among consumers, it’s a great opportunity to look at alternative packaging options.

In this example from Germany, Wertpack GmbH is offering various ecologically sound alternatives, such as organic berry bowls and a range of palm leaf options. The BIO berry trays are made of wood pulp and are not only protected against shock damage, but also have a moisture-regulating effect, ensuring that the berries stay fresh for longer. Wood pulp as a material is also a natural product: very finely ground wood shavings are mechanically compressed for this purpose, without the addition of any chemicals. Thus, the product is completely biodegradable and yet durable.

Source: freshplaza.com

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Queensland strawberry growers finds solution to waste

 Mandy Schultz with bags of fruit ready to sell. Photo: ABC Rural, Jennifer Nichols. 

Mandy Schultz with bags of fruit ready to sell. Photo: ABC Rural, Jennifer Nichols. 

Mandy Schultz, a strawberry grower from the Sunshine Coast, has set out to help reduce waste on farm by freezing and freeze drying second-grade fruit.  

After years of throwing fruit out and sending it off for animal feed, Mrs Schultz decided to take action. 

"Basically, one day I had a hissy fit. I was in the pack house and I said 'this is ridiculous, they're such good quality fruit'," she said.

The fruit which has cosmetic blemishes and is irregularly sized, is still perfectly okay to consume. 

"There's nothing wrong with this fruit. We've taken the green calyces off to make it easier for people to put directly in their smoothies or cook for jam, whatever they want to do with it," she said.

The berries are frozen or freeze dried, packaged up on farm, and sold through their Facebook page, LuvaBerry. 

Source: abc.net.au

Bumper crops expected for growers in South East Queensland

With ideal conditions, growers located in South East Queensland are expected to see increases in crop production, says Luigi Coco, strawberry grower and president of the Queensland Strawberry Growers Association.

“If the weather stays like this we will be smiling from ear to ear,” he said.

Mr Coco also noted that the new Australian varieties were contributing to the increases in yield, having a stronger and better root system.

“With some of the older varieties we were losing 30 per cent, now we are losing very little,” said Mr Coco.

Source: www.couriermail.com.au

Relief as colder weather reduces threat of Queensland fruit fly

An increase in cold weather has brought relief to growers in the southern states of Australia, with a noticeable decrease in Queensland fruit fly populations.  Ross Abberfield, Goulburn Murray Valley Regional Fruit Fly Coordinator, said the current cold snap is having a significant impact on QFF numbers. He believes that existing populations are either looking for food or refuge, opposed to breeding. 

“Most immature fruit flies will die during winter due to the significant drop in temperature and many adult flies will die in the coming months, however there will be some adults that will survive the winter, which is called overwintering,” said Mr Abberfield.

The Riverine Herald also reported that QFF numbers had dropped as a result of the colder weather, however there were still spots in urban areas where the fruit fly was prevalent, and stressed the importance of monitoring programs. 

Source: freshplaza.com

Queensland strawberry delegates return from market research adventure

 Queensland strawberry delegates with importers in Hong Kong

Queensland strawberry delegates with importers in Hong Kong

A range of different strawberry growers and industry representatives have returned from a market research adventure to Hong Kong and Indonesia.  The delegates visited a total of 17 different retail outlets across the two areas, which ranged from high-end stores through to suburban supermarkets.

“Hong Kong is a very competitive market with strawberries from USA available in every market type. USA strawberries are also available in Jakarta with locally-grown Indonesia strawberries also available”, said Luigi Coco, Chairman of the Queensland Strawberry Growers Association and strawberry grower.

Recently conducted trials, which have involved exporting strawberries from Queensland to Hong Kong and Indonesia, have proved to be a success. Brendon Hoyle from Asbern Farms noted that 'Within 24 hours of picking the strawberries on our farm, they can arrive at the importer's distribution centre in Hong Kong. The Hong Kong cold chain is very sophisticated and strong relationships between these businesses and the retail and food service industry have been established'

Travel was funded by Queensland Government’s Growing Queensland Food Exports program which was also supported by the Queensland Strawberry Growers Association. 

Source: hortidaily.com

Rockwool used to increase strawberry yield

Damien Manno, strawberry grower and Protected Cropping Australia member, has decided to investigate the benefits of cultivating strawberries in rockwool substrates. 

 PCA member Damien Manno with his strawberry crop.

PCA member Damien Manno with his strawberry crop.

Damien, who is predominantly growing the day neutral variety Albion has used the rockwool substrate 'Delta 4' to cultivate his strawberries. The Albion stock, which was delivered as bare root chilled plants, was gradually brought up to room temperature and planted in the Delta 4 blocks, using granulate rockwool to back fill. Damien's controlled growing system, which involved precision irrigation and a fogging system to relive the plants in hot weather, proved to be a success with the first ripe fruit being ready to harvest on day 44. 

Initial research into the use of rockwool as a growing media has shown that it has reduced the incidents of misshapen fruit and increased the shelf life by three to four days, when compared to coconut fibre.

Source: protectedcroppingaustralia.com

Soil steaming used to control pests, weeds and diseases

 MS 200 steam generator in action 

MS 200 steam generator in action 

With the lack of approved pesticides to help control soil-borne pests, weeds and diseases in strawberry production, there has been an increase in innovative technologies to help address these issues without the use of harmful chemicals. The company MSD (Möschle, Seifert Dämpftechnik) from Germany, is one doing just that. MSD has produced a tractor mounted 'soil steamer' to eliminated soil nematodes, soil-borne fungus and weeds in raised beds.

The MS 200 steam generator operates with a steam output of 250kg/h, with an operating pressure of 0.5 bar and a steam emission temperature of 200 °C. 

Trials conducted with the steamer showed no heat adhesions and no damage to plastic film. Temperatures of 90 °C were detected in areas immediately surrounding the steam spikes' point of penetration, which is sufficient to eliminate soil nematodes, soil-borne fungus, and weeds. 

Source: hortidaily.com

GoodBerry working on climate-proof berry production

The EU project, GoodBerry, is working on developing new berry varieties and production methods that are resistant against high temperatures and unfavourable weather conditions due to climate change. The first test results from the project that began in 2016 have now been collected.

One of the sub-studies is the development of molecular techniques that can be used to improve berry varieties. Research is done into the growth of plants and production techniques in various production areas and under various climatological circumstances.

Further information on the project is available on the project website.

New website for Queensland fruit fly management

 The National Sterile Insect Technology Facility 

The National Sterile Insect Technology Facility 

A website has recently been launched by the SITplus consortium to provide information on how to manage the Queensland fruit fly. STIplus is a five-year, $45 million research and development partnership that aims to reduce horticulture’s most economically damaging pest. It uses what is known as Sterile Insect Technique (SIT), a technique that releases millions of sterile flies into the environment, which produce no offspring, causing the population to decrease.

For the implementation of SIT to be most effective, an area-wide management program must be implemented. This involves a united effort from the whole community to target habitats in a well defined area. Hort Innovation and CSIRO were enlisted by the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources to develop an online tool to help anyone undertake an area-wide management program. 

For ease of use the online tool offers different sets of steps of implementing a management program, depending on whether the individual is a fruit fly coordinator, grower, or backyard gardener.

Click here to visit the website and use the online tool

Source: apal.org.au

Queensland grower hopes to export strawberries to Hong Kong and Indonesia

 Luigi Coco, Queensland strawberry grower and Mayor Allan Sutherland, Moreton Bay Regional Council. 

Luigi Coco, Queensland strawberry grower and Mayor Allan Sutherland, Moreton Bay Regional Council. 

Following a $52,000 grant from the Queensland government’s 'Growing Queensland’s Food Exports program', Luigi Coco, from E & A Coco and Sons Pty Ltd in the Moreton Bay region, has decided to venture to Asia to conduct market research.

Mr Coco, who is also the president of the Queensland Strawberry Growers Association, is looking for new markets to expand his product. He believes that there are limitations to growing the market in Australia, due to restricted market access associated with Queensland fruit fly. 

The market research will build on a recent successful trial and will be done in collaboration with other growers 'Three strawberry businesses will collaborate to conduct the research and the information will be shared with all strawberry growers in Queensland and Australia' said Mr Coco.

Mr Coco aims to be able to export his strawberries this year. 

Source: The Courier Mail 

Can robotic strawberry pickers replace humans?

Dogtooth harvester picking strawberries

Mechanically harvesting soft fruit is one of the biggest challenges for robotic harvesters in the strawberry industry, but can recent developments in technologies successfully address this? 

Belgium-based R&D company, Octinion, are conducting the final phase of field trials with growers in the UK and continental Europe to help address these issues.

'If you can put a man on the moon you can get a machine to pick a strawberry...Today we can say we have a [robotic] arm that is competitive with a human in terms of price and speed' says Tom Coen, founder of Octinion.

Cambridge-based organisation, Dogtooth, is also trying to tackle these issues, but with a different approach. Although reluctant to give away all of their secrets, the Dogtooth differs from its competitors by being able to pick berries in field and not require any additional infrastructure.

Source: bbc.co.uk

Australian farmers turning to the Seasonal Workers Programme for labour

 Jone Dusilele Raitani from Koro Island in Fiji picking citrus at Costa farm in Renmark

Jone Dusilele Raitani from Koro Island in Fiji picking citrus at Costa farm in Renmark

The Australian Government's Seasonal Workers Programme (SWP) is opening up new doors for Australian producers. The main aim of the SWP is to provide certain employers access to a reliable, returning workforce when local labour is unavailable.

Steve Burdette, Business Development Manager at the Costa Group said, “For us this is more than just a programme, it’s a partnership. A partnership that sees us getting access to reliable labour, while more importantly it enables us to positively change the lives of the people who come from very poor backgrounds. For us at the Costa Group that is very important and an amazing achievement.”

The Costa Group has been involved in the program since its inception, and is now looking to expand its involvement after proving its success.  

The workers involved in the program gain both skills and wages which benefit themselves and their communities. These wages can be life changing for individuals who are from developing countries in the Pacific, and Timor-Leste.  

Source: farmers.org.au