Improved retractable roof technology for berry growers

Luis Gaxiola from Cravo Equipment

Luis Gaxiola from Cravo Equipment

More growers are seeking out better technologies when it comes to retractable roofs, particularly more control over climate than what is offered with tunnels.  The following advice is provided from Luis Gaxiola of Cravo Equipment.

In cold climates

Retractable roofs are used in a cold climate to allow the maximum amount of sun energy possible. By opening the roof when temperatures are not too low, it allows the plants to invigorate growth and help reduce moisture problems.

"The ability to retract the roof when outdoor conditions are optimal, allows plants to receive more light and warm up faster from being exposed to direct sunlight," Gaxiola said. "The combination of more light, lower humidity and wind helps dry off the plants to increase the rate of water loss which helps increase flower development, increase fruit size and BRIX. Drying off the leaves will also help reduce the risk of foliar disease."

The roof can then be closed to protect berry crops from cold temperatures, when they are present. "If temperatures are low and these represent a risk to the crop, the roof can then be closed," he added. "For the cover, we use a transparent plastic roof, which produces a greenhouse effect and can remain completely closed to protect the berries, resulting in a greenhouse effect.

In hot climates

For berry growers located in warmer areas, Gaxiola said the retractable roof will also aid in maximizing production. He also recommended using a white roof to reflect away strong sunlight. "When growing in hot climates, a retractable white cooling roof will allow growers who are targeting winter production to transplant weeks earlier, allowing them to harvest earlier before open field production comes into focus," he said. "The white roof can also be closed at night during the winter to help increase production by keeping plants warmer at night. Growers can then also use the white cooling roof to help extend the season in the springtime when the excessive heat causes and end to open field production and conventional tunnel production. A low pressure mist system will also help reduce plant stress during the hot dry conditions.

The roof can be retracted and closed as appropriate to keep temperature and humidity levels more consistent. "The roof can be retracted when temperatures are lower than ideal for the crop," Gaxiola continued. "Then, when this temperature is exceeded the roof can be closed 90% to protect the crop from high levels of radiation. Additionally, a high pressure sprinkler system can be installed to keep the relative humidity conditions at optimum for the crop. For these projects a white plastic is used to give a shade effect to the crop."


A stand-alone greenhouse offers almost complete protection from wind and rain. With a retractable roof, this option naturally remains. The retractable roofs are fitted with both a rain sensor and a barometric pressure sensor, which work together, triggering the roof to close automatically should a rain event occur.

"In rainy conditions, the greenhouse is equipped with a weather station that helps to anticipate closing the greenhouse completely before the rain starts to fall thus avoiding any damage to the crop," Gaxiola shared. "For the cultivation of strawberries, the model with a waterproof roof is suggested."

According to Gaxiola, the retractable roofs manufactured by Cravo have never suffered damage from wind or hail, even in hurricane conditions. "Retractable roof  houses have proven to be extremely resistant to damage from wind since they have been hit by 18 hurricanes without the loss of any structures," he said. "In addition, the retractable roof covering has a usable life of typically 8-12 years. During that time, roofs have never blown off and have proven to be very resistant to hail as well. For regions of strong winds, retractable roof greenhouses have walls 5 meters high, which serves as a physical barrier of protection."

Cost and usage

In regards to installation costs, Gaxiola said that, just like any investment, the calculation of returns is vital. He argued that the additional production means retractable roof greenhouses pay for themselves after 3-5 years.

"Retractable roof houses are more expensive than a conventional tunnel and less expensive than a glass house," he stated. "When targeting the high price windows, the return on investment can be 3-5 years. This technology allows for the optimal density of planting, allows plants to develop their maximum reproductive potential, allows for earlier and later harvests to enter the best price windows; these all ensure a return of the investment in a shorter time frame."






Qld Fruit Fly control in Queensland

Queensland Fruit Fly are on the radar after larvae was found on two separate occasions in Queensland grown strawberry fruit sent to South Australia.

Biosecurity South Australia has confirmed that several thousand trays of strawberries were withdrawn from the shelves and destroyed in September 2017, after larvae was discovered in a single consignment from the Caboolture district.

Fruit fly maggots were also detected in strawberries sent from a different business, in the same growing region, in September 2016.

Queensland Strawberry Growers Association industry development officer Jennifer Rowling said the biosecurity breaches put the industry's reputation at stake.

"It is very concerning for all growers, not just the ones where problems have been identified," Ms Rowling said.

The industry has taken action to better educate growers, with a Strawberry Innovation hosted webinar held last week (available here) and a session staged with Biosecurity Queensland staff this week.

Failed field hygiene standards identified

Seven Queensland strawberry growers send their fruit to South Australia and the two breaches were the only detections during trade since 2009.

In both cases, investigations by Biosecurity Queensland found the suppliers had failed to maintain appropriate field hygiene standards.

The business involved in last year's incident has had its trade with South Australia suspended until it can prove it has met all the conditions to have its interstate certification assurance reaccredited.

The supplier identified in the 2016 breach was audited and allowed to resume sending produce last year.

Dead Queensland fruit flies in a Bio Trap. Photo credit: Emma Brown

Dead Queensland fruit flies in a Bio Trap.

Photo credit: Emma Brown

'Not best practice management' says entomologist

Entomologist Dan Papacek of Bugs For Bugs has been educating growers about the fruit fly threat, commenting that it is a very serious pest that must be taken seriously.

"I think for the strawberry industry historically, it's not really been considered a pest and as far as I can see, that's changed" Mr Papacek said.

"As we experience warmer winters and climate change and also different rainfall patterns, it has expanded its range, not only further afield but also into a broader range of cultivated crops."

Mr Papacek said that while he was not an expert on the strawberry industry, he does not believe it has done enough to stop the pest spreading.

"I certainly don't want to make comment that's not appropriate but I do think that strawberry growers, as a whole, have been reluctant to admit that it is a significant pest," he said.

"So they've done what they think is necessary to fill their obligations but not to get what I'd call 'best practice management' of fruit fly.

"It is a manageable pest and we can get excellent control of fruit fly if we tackle it properly."

Controlling fruit fly in strawberries

There are three main methods to control Queensland fruit flies in strawberries:

  • Using yeast-based protein baits to attract and poison the females
  • Using hormones to attract and kill male flies with a technique called male annihilation
  • Making sure that fields are sprayed out at the end of the season.

Source: ABC Rural


Isolating the strawberry gene to increase strawberry production

University of Maryland researchers have identified a gene in strawberries that could greatly increase production of the fruit.

Julie Caruana, a postdoctoral researcher, found and isolated the gene under the direction of Zhongchi Liu, a professor in the Department of Cell Biology and Molecular Genetics.

Zhongchi Liu, a Molecular & Cellular Biology professor (left), and postdoctoral researcher Julie Caruana (right) have found and isolated the gene which has the ability to switch on or off the runner behaiour in strawberries. Photo Credit: Tom Hausman, The Diamondback

Zhongchi Liu, a Molecular & Cellular Biology professor (left), and postdoctoral researcher Julie Caruana (right) have found and isolated the gene which has the ability to switch on or off the runner behaiour in strawberries.

Photo Credit: Tom Hausman, The Diamondback

There are two main ways to produce new strawberry plants, Caruana said. One way is through flowers and fruit, which make strawberry seeds. The other way is through asexual reproduction. The latter involves the strawberry plant making a runner from the parent plant that grows new plants at the end of the stem.

"Currently, the process of runner growth is really a black box. From a scientific perspective we don't know how it works," said Caruana, who has worked on this project for the past four years. "When we identified the gene it started to flesh out how this process works, which is a big breakthrough for us."

To find this gene, Caruana treated strawberry seeds from a variety that does not normally produce runners with mutagen which creates changes in the genome. One of the resulting mutant plants produced a runner. She then compared the genome between the mutated strawberry that has a runner with the original in order to isolate the gene responsible.

Almost all strawberry plants grown in both large commercial farms and small home gardens are reproduced through runners instead of seeds, Liu said. Growing the plants through seeds is less ideal because they are hybrids, and therefore may not contain the desirable combination of genes. With runners, plants grown have an exact copy of the plant's genes.

Finding and isolating the gene has the ability to switch on or off the runner behavior, Liu said. The gene itself is a runner repressor, meaning when it is activated it stops the creation of runners in the strawberry.

Most strawberry plants used for production are varieties that only produce berries once per year. There are other varieties that produce fruit year round, but it is unpopular in the production industry because they are poor runner producers, meaning they rarely create runners. With this gene, scientists could potentially induce runner creation within these varieties of strawberry, which would have major impacts on strawberry production and increase the overall yield of the fruit.

Source: The Dimondback

Technology to extend strawberry shelf life by 40%

A new research project in Spain is looking at extending the post-harvest shelf life of strawberries beyond 10 days, whilst reducing the use of agrochemicals in a push to contribute to improved food security through sustainable agriculture.  The goal of the project will be to develop a strawberry with a unique quality and a longer shelf life in order to reach countries that are still inaccessible without these improvements.

From a production and marketing standpoint, strawberries have a very short shelf life due to the ease in which the fruit deteriorates as a result of pathogenic microorganisms. Through this project, the quality of the fruit and its post-harvest shelf life are anticipated to be improved, increasing the economic value of each punnet of strawberries.

The key focus of the research will be the use of bioefectors to stimulate the metabolic systems which is involved in the plant's defence against pathogens.  This will contribute to improving production and minimising the impact of pests on the crop, helping also reduce the use of chemical phytosanitary products.

The final result will be the production of a fruit with 40% longer shelf life (subject to post-harvest environmental conditions), opening a new path towards a waste-free technology that will lead to significant improvements for the strawberry industry.


Traders face compliance notices under new Hort Code

The ACCC has issued 15 compliance check notices to horticultural traders across the wholesale central markets, signalling an increased focus on enforcing the Horticulture Code of Conduct.

The recently released ACCC publication Small Business in Focus also reported the ACCC had been contacted by nearly 255 agricultural traders with reports and enquiries, an increase of 25 per cent compared with the previous six months.

The 12-month transition period for the revised Code ends on 1 April, 2018. All growers must have a compliant horticulture produce agreement in place by then, unless they sell directly to retailers, exporters and processors.

In October 2017, the ACCC launched its online tool for people in the agriculture sector to anonymously report concerns about competition or fair trading issues, available here.

This anonymous tool was particularly developed with the horticulture industry in mind, off the back of grower concerns about potential retribution within the supply chain if they contacted the ACCC.

The easy-to-use, secure and anonymous channel allows farmers to report potential breaches of laws the ACCC enforces, such as suspected breaches of the new Hort Code.

Source: Growcom

Seasonal worker shortages

Australia is reporting to be facing a growing problem of finding fruit pickers during the harvesting season, with hundreds of tonnes of fruit are going to waste.

Fruit firms and growers in Australia have been unable to find sufficient pickers to help harvest ripened fruit. Local news agencies estimate that the labour shortage is in the thousands. The problem of uncollected and unprocessed fruit is spanning various fruit crops and Australian states, especially in the South.

Fruit Growers Victoria said that cherries and other stone-fruit crops were badly affected. In Tasmania, several hundred tonnes of fruit such as strawberries have been left to rot.

According to a foodnavigator-asia article, voices on the ground say the “Backpacker Tax” introduced by the Australian federal government at the start of 2017 has had a negative impact. This taxes pickers on working holiday visas at 15% from the first dollars earned.

Farmers and associations in both Victoria and Tasmania have expressed the desire to open a dialogue with government officials on the Seasonal Worker Programme, and hopefully to ring in some changes to regulation in order to deal with this seasonal crisis.


Fruit fly detection in Tasmania

Tasmania’s fruit and vegetable producers are becoming increasingly nervous with the larvae of the Queensland Fruit Fly (QFF) recently detected in a backyard near the north-west city of Devonport.

This is the first time QFF has been discovered on the Tasmanian mainland since 2011 with a 15km control area now imposed around the site at Spreyton.

The discovery follows three recent reports of detections in backyard apricot trees on Flinders Island in the Bass Strait last week. Spreyton is a key production area for apples and cherries while the 15km control area covers vineyards, large berry farms and tomato producers.

“Clearly we are facing a very serious issue in respect to the detection of fruit fly,” Minister for Primary Industries, Jeremy Rockliff, said following a briefing by Biosecurity Tasmania staff at their incident room in northern Tasmania.

“Our biosecurity and pest free and disease free status is crucial. “

“There are two key priorities for us – firstly to contain and eradicate fruit fly. The second key area is working hard to maintain the market access.”

Minister Rockcliff said no fruit flies or larvae have been detected on any commercial farm in the State at this stage.

He commended the members of the public who raised the alarm after sighting the larvae both on Flinders Island and at Spreyton.

President of Fruit Growers Tasmania, Nic Hansen, said the detections are very concerning.

“I have been on Flinders Island for the past two days and have seen first-hand the work of Biosecurity Tasmania. We are certainly supportive of the efforts being undertaken to detect and eradicate fruit fly.”

“The Government is throwing every resource at this incident and have been very transparent with the information provided to us.”

Mr Hansen said given the lack of adult flies in the traps, it is possible the larvae was produced by a none-viable density.

Later today the Commonwealth Government Department of Agriculture and Water Resources withdrew the State’s pest free area recognition with individual property freedom certification now required.

Source: Phil Pyke,

Tasmanian biosecurity team supported by QFF experts

Queensland fruit fly experts are offering assistance to Tasmania as the island state's biosecurity agencies investigate a potential incursion of the pest as reported by ABC Rural.

Four sites are now under investigation: three on Flinders Island in Bass Strait and one at Spreyton in the state's north-west.

All four detections are of fruit fly larvae inside apricots from suburban backyard trees.

Fruit within a 250-metre radius has been stripped, bagged, and frozen and more than 1,000 traps are in place across the state.

Fruit fly larvae collected from one of the four quarantined sites in Tasmania Photo credit: Craig Heerey, ABC Rural

Fruit fly larvae collected from one of the four quarantined sites in Tasmania

Photo credit: Craig Heerey, ABC Rural


Maintaining export markets the priority


Tasmania's Minister for Primary Industries, Jeremy Rockliff, said maintaining the state's $50 million fruit export markets was the chief priority.

"Within the domestic trade, for the export of fruit within a a 15-kilometre zone around the Spreyton area, there will be a permit system applied for any export of fruit interstate," he said.

"When it comes to more sensitive markets, like our international Asian markets, we are working closely with the Commonwealth on keeping those lines of communication open.

"We're working very hard at ensuring we get area freedom status of fruit fly, which allows key areas around Tasmania, such as the Huon and Derwent Valleys, to still supply those markets."

Two specialists from Queensland are in Tasmania to assist biosecurity teams better understand the fruit fly's breeding cycle.

Tasmania's chief plant health manager Andrew Bishop said temperatures would need to rise at least two degrees for fruit fly to survive winter.

"With a change of climate, we wouldn't expect that for many decades that would be suitable for Queensland fruit fly."

It is still unclear how the latest fruit fly larvae came to be in the state.

Source: Laurissa Smith, ABC Rural



Robotics race

The prediction is, you’ll be eating robot-picked strawberries before you buy your first self-driving car in the USA.

Hoping to be the first robotic strawberry picker on the market, the current model of the Harvest CROO sits on a four-wheeled platform spanning six standard rows of strawberry beds and picks simultaneously over four beds at little more than 1.6 km/hour

Photo credit: Ernst Peters

Photo credit: Ernst Peters

As it moves along, a photographic sensor picks out a ripe strawberry, which then activates the “Pitzer wheel,” a patented, six-arm wheel each with a plastic clamp that gently grabs the berry. The machine puts the picked berry into a plastic container, which carries the fruit to an overhead packing system.

The strawberries are packed into a plastic shell until another machine comes to pick up the load. The goal is to carry 0.5 tonne of picked berries until it needs to stop for unloading.

The first working prototype of the harvester is being tested on a 600-acre Wish Farms field in Duette in Florida.

The company is already working on a second prototype that will be ready in the fall for the 2018-19 Florida strawberry season and will also be tested in California.  The second prototype will be narrower, with wheels traveling over two strawberry beds but still able to pick over four beds.

The goal for the new prototype is to pick one berry per second, an improvement over the current rate of three berries in eight seconds.

For more information, click here.



Export opportunities on the horizon for WA despite TPP outbreak

The Western Australian strawberry season is on track to reach average production for some growers, despite the industry having to deal with diseases such as tomato potato psyllid.

"WA supplies Australia wide and exports into Oceania, Asia and the Middle East," Jamie Michael from grower/export company, Ti Produce Marketing said. "Our biggest destination would be the East Coast. The volume of WA strawberries shipped to this market is determined solely by supply and demand and the usual market forces as the strawberry industry is supply based."

Strawberry Growers Association of WA, Industry Development Officer, Aileen Reid says the southwest season is in full swing, including Albany, Mt Barker, Pemberton and Manjimup.

"A lot more plants went in – maybe 3-4 million off the back of two very good seasons," she said. "However the tomato potato psyllid outbreak meant that for the early part of the season no fruit could be exported interstate, as over 60 per cent of WA fruit goes east. Then for a while it was able to be exported after fumigation. It wrecks the fruit and many markets just didn’t want it. A protocol was developed allowing growers to export fruit after inspection which was a huge cost import and also meant big delays in some cases. Finally about the middle of August a training packaged was delivered which allowed growers to inspect their own fruit as part of that protocol.”

A report was released late last year, from the Western Australian Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development showing the potential export opportunities for the state. It found the unit value of global strawberry imports grew by three per cent during the past ten years, showing the improvement in quality.

It also identified that, in most of the potential countries, the United States is the only competitor from July to September, which is the main export season for WA strawberries, and that gaining access to the Chinese market could be an avenue for growth down the track.

Source: Matthew Russell, Fresh Plaza

Health benefits and motivators for berry consumption


With limited guidance in the United States for fruit intake in current nutritional guidelines, researchers at the Centre for Nutrition Research at the Illinois Institute of Technology recently published an assessment of berry consumption on associated health factors.  The researchers sought to characterize berry intake compared to overall fruit intake in the US, as well as assess factors that may motivate berry consumption.

Berries, including strawberries, contain a wide spectrum of beneficial ingredients, making them more nutrient dense than many other fruits. They provide essential vitamins and minerals like vitamin C and potassium, nutrients such as fibre, and polyphenol phytochemical compounds such as anthocyanins. Berry consumption has also been linked to several health benefits, such as decreased risk for cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes, and delayed cognitive aging.

Results from the study showed that only about one-fifth of the US adult population had daily fruit intakes that met the recommended 2-cup equivalent amount of total fruit, with less than 1% of the population consuming 1-cup equivalent of berries per day. The median consumption of berries was about 1/8-cup, which is much less than the typical 1-cup used in research studies investigating the health effects of berry consumption. Data also showed that berry consumption increased as income level and education level increased.

Researchers concluded that total fruit and berries are consumed at very low levels. It was suggested that increasing the frequency with which individuals have fruit available in the home, via promotion of year-round available forms such as canned, dried, juiced, and frozen, may help to reduce cost burden and short shelf life associated with fresh berries and increase berry consumption. It was also recommended that food labelling and dietary guidance be utilized as public health strategies to increase total fruit and specifically berry intake.

Source: California Strawberry Nutrition News

Growth in agricultural robotics


The growing market of agricultural robotics was on show during the recent second annual International Forum of Agricultural Robotics (FIRA) in Toulouse, France.

The several distinct classes of robotics in agriculture were on show at the forum, including vision systems, field robotics and stationery robots.  Interest in robotics is growing in areas of materials handling and augmenting human labour, rather than fully replacing it.

The changing face of modern agriculture is witnessing a shift from energy exhaustive tractors and machines to targeted tasks performed by ultralight robots.  An example is being seen in the crop protection industry, where few new active ingredients are being developed due to high cost and regulatory implications for existing chemicals such as glyphosate.  This is being addressed through developments like the Syngenta “Hyperweeding” project, which uses vision guidance to identify weeds and robotic control of a sprayer or laser to eradicate them.

Fruit harvesting is also set to become more efficient through program in-field grading, such as the developmental robotic strawberry harvester AUTOPIC which uses advanced sensing, pattern recognition, and robotic technologies to inspect, pick, and pack berries.

Energy and Labour Challenges

The issue of “energy density”, including maintaining adequate power supply for long hours in the field continues to challenge robotics.  However, the sector is optimistically watching non-agricultural developers, such as Tesla refined battery-powered mobility, to enable quick adoption in the agriculture sector.

As for the workforce, a 100% automated farm is not on the cards. A farm manager decides which crops to grow, where to grow, what types they are, what rates they want to have. How those decisions are then supported may be done by robots, but they’ll only be representing what the farmer wants to do.  As for seasonal labour, the push is for robots to replace this.

Source: James Sulecki, Meister Media Worldwide, Growing Produce

Seed propagated strawberry varieties for organic production

Scientists with the New Hampshire Agricultural Experiment Station at the University of New Hampshire have launched a research project that aims to develop the first varieties of strawberries specifically designed for organic agriculture in the United States.

The organic strawberry varieties will be developed for optimal production in New England using advanced genetic techniques. UNH is recognized as one of a very small handful of institutions worldwide working at the forefront of strawberry genomics and its application to strawberry breeding.

Seed propagated strawberries are flagged to provide an "environmentally friendly alternative to the vegetatively propagated varieties currently relied upon by the strawberry industry".  According to Mark Bolda from UCANR, This is based on: 1. Seed propagation would mean less dictation of planting date by nursery harvest schedules and purchaser climatic region; and 2 Eliminate the chemical inputs necessary in bare root production systems and avoid transmission of diseases by living plants.

Seed propagated strawberries are flagged to provide an "environmentally friendly alternative to the vegetatively propagated varieties currently relied upon by the strawberry industry".  According to Mark Bolda from UCANR, This is based on:

1. Seed propagation would mean less dictation of planting date by nursery harvest schedules and purchaser climatic region; and

2 Eliminate the chemical inputs necessary in bare root production systems and avoid transmission of diseases by living plants.

“No strawberry varieties yet have been developed specifically for organic agriculture in the United States, and only one company located in Europe offers any strawberry seed-propagated varieties specifically for organic production,” said UNH experiment station researcher Lise Mahoney, who is leading the three-year project. “This project will contribute to advances in strawberry breeding for organic agriculture and will advance knowledge of the genetic basis for trait variation, inbreeding depression, and hybrid vigor in strawberry.”

“We want to provide strawberry growers with regionally adapted, seed-propagated strawberry varieties that are suitable for organic agriculture and are pleasing to consumers. Organically certifiable, seed-propagated varieties provide an attractive and environmentally friendly alternative to the vegetatively propagated varieties currently relied upon by the strawberry industry,” Mahoney said.

Experiment station researchers plan to produce both day-neutral and short-day flowering strawberry varieties for organic agriculture that can be propagated by seed rather than by the conventional runner plant approach. According to Mahoney, strawberries typically are propagated vegetatively from runners and purchased by growers as bare-root plants. However, this bare-root production method presents major problems in regards to organic agriculture.

First, the process of generating the bare-root plants requires chemical inputs to avoid transmission of diseases. Second, the grower planting schedule is dictated by the bare-root supplier and therefore planting stock availability is seasonally limited according to the purchaser’s climatic region.

Source: Fruit Growers News

Multi-coloured Japanese strawberries to commence production in China

Japanese "multi-colored strawberries" are about to be introduced to China. The multi-colored strawberries are the main product among early winter strawberries, and have a cultivation history of more than 20 years in Japan.

Agricultural company, Wanhe Qicai, who is pioneering the breeding in Japan plans to breed seven varieties in different colors. At present they have already successfully developed the pink "Princess Peach", the fiery red "Kiss", and the "White Sweetheart" that feels and looks like a snow-white angel. Next year, the company plans to present a black strawberry and a yellow strawberry. In 2019 they will continue with a green strawberry and a blue strawberry.



Japanese strawberries set eyes on the Australian market

Japan hopes to boost exports of its unique strawberry varieties, with Australia planning to lift its ban on the fruit as early as 2019.

Australia does not allow imports of Japanese strawberries out of concern over pests. Both sides are working to complete quarantine criteria in the next one to two years.

Japanese strawberries have a reputation for their sweet taste.

Japanese strawberries have a reputation for their sweet taste.

Japan's fruit exports totaled 26.9 billion yen ($238 million) in 2016. Strawberries constituted a little over 1.1 billion yen, or 4% -- up more than 30% compared with 2015. Strawberry exports for the January-October period have already topped those for all of 2016.

Japanese strawberries are sweeter than American and European varieties. The government hopes that strawberries will promote the made-in-Japan brand, whose popularity will improve should Australia open up its market. Most of Japan's strawberry exports now go to Hong Kong.

Countries are aggressively competing to export foodstuffs. Australia is expected to lift its ban on South Korean strawberry imports in the first half of 2018. Seoul has already provided Canberra with data to set quarantine criteria.

South Korea exports strawberries cross-bred with such Japanese varieties as Tochigi Prefecture's Tochiotome to greater Asia, according to Japan's Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries. This will cost Japan as much as 22 billion yen over five years, by the ministry's estimate. Japan would take a hit if South Korea were to grab a large share of the Australian market.

Australia and Japan put an economic partnership agreement into force in 2015, and both want the U.S. to rejoin the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Canberra's decision to allow imports of more Japanese agricultural products is also seen as applying pressure on Washington by expanding trade.

Source: Nikkei Asian Review

On farm innovation – compostable containers and ‘slashed’ potting media

Westerway is one of Tasmania’s biggest berry producers. It grows more than 200 tonnes of fruit a year – about 120 tonnes of raspberries, 70 tonnes of blackcurrants and 30 tonnes of various other berries.

At the peak of the harvesting season the operation employs 150 seasonal staff.

Richard Clark, Westerway Raspberry Farm with the new compostable containers made from sugarcane. Photo Credit: Matt Thompson, The Weekly Times

Richard Clark, Westerway Raspberry Farm with the new compostable containers made from sugarcane.

Photo Credit: Matt Thompson, The Weekly Times

When The Weekly TImes visited Richard Clark, who runs his family’s Westerway Raspberry Farm in the upper Derwent Valley, he was buzzing with excitement taking delivery of his first batch of compostable containers made from sugarcane pulp.

“I reckon we are the first raspberry growers in Australia to offer compostable containers,” he said.

“Our raspberries are big, red and juicy so the containers need to be able to hold the juice, and these new units can do that.”

Mr Clark will use the bigger containers for strawberries.

A new innovation at Westerway is growing strawberries on “tables”, where they are planted directly into slashes made in a bag of potting medium and grown hydroponically.

This system means the plants are higher up from the slugs and snails that attack them.

“Other benefits include significant reduction in picking costs because the picker is standing up and there is less wastage because fruit is not lost on the ground,” Mr Clark said.

“Quality is better because we can put nutrients into the plants that need it rather than waste excess nutrients.”

Mr Clark said the system also allowed growers better disease control leading to higher yields.

Helping manage the strawberry tables was University of Tasmania agricultural science student Oliver Gales, who has finished his second year of studies.

“This gives me good summer experience and to learn about the berry industry,” Mr Gales said.

Source: Roger Hanson, The Weekly Times

Shared lessons - greater biosecurity harmonisation will help protect nursery industry

The detection of 15 emergency plant pests in Australia in 2017 has placed even clearer focus on the need for the harmonisation of biosecurity measures across plant producers in all states and territories to protect the nation’s valuable nursery industry, with shared lessons for other industries.

The nursery sector underpins more than $15 billion in national food, fibre and foliage plant production including urban landscape and retail through to fruit, vegetable, forestry and revegetation. It is one of the most heavily invested industries in Australia’s national domestic biosecurity system.

While the bulk of pest incursions in 2017 were of low to negligible impact, the detection of Tomato Potato Psyllid (TPP) in February 2017 seriously affected a wide section of the industry in Western Australia, including seedling producers, high value grafted tomato production and ornamental plant production.

National biosecurity manager for Nursery & Garden Industry Australia (NGIA), John McDonald, presenting at the National Biosecurity Roundtable in Canberra recently, said streamlining the national domestic biosecurity system would improve business profitability and sustainability, while delivering efficiencies across agencies.

“These gains would be made by reducing the loss of markets and inability to access and supply new genetic material, while also decreasing the labour costs associated with managing market access compliance,” Mr McDonald said.

“There’s also considerable industry confusion in interpreting legal obligations during and after an incursion, and we risk eroding industry belief in, and support for, our biosecurity systems if we don’t address these key criteria.”

Other key risks for industry associated with not better harmonising biosecurity measures include:

Reduced access to new and improved plant products

Lack of participation by industry in national initiatives such as pest surveillance

New genetic material not being traded across all jurisdictions therefore limiting productivity gains in certain sectors

Producers not complying with biosecurity measures due to complexity and cost.

Mr McDonald said a national domestic pest risk analysis framework, together with standardised documents such as plant health and biosecurity certificates, uniform administrative requirements for labelling, packing and consignment information, electronic certification and agreed definitions for all movement control terminology would take important first steps towards harmonisation and would provide true red tape reduction.

Source: Nursery & Garden Industry Australia

Seasonal marketing (USA)

Wish Farms in the US has embraced some seasonal marketing.

Customers are being offered  something new – consumers who have signed up for the Wish Farms email newsletter, or Berry Lovers, are entered to win $100 every week. 

“We are looking forward to engaging our Berry Lovers,” said Amber Maloney, director of marketing at Wish Farms. “This is an exciting way that we can thank our longtime Wish Farms fans, and welcome newcomers to the program.”

The weekly offer stands for both existing and new Berry Lovers. Wish Farms is encouraging fans to share the opportunity with friends and family. Signing up to be a Berry Lover also includes what’s-in-season updates, contests and exclusive recipes. New to the Wish Farms recipe catalogue this year is Dipped Strawberry Rudolph. 

“Dipped Strawberry Rudolph is the first of our new series of quick-style recipe videos,” said Maloney. “Our consumers are on the go and they want something fast, fun and easy to make at home. This recipe is just that, with a holiday flare.”