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Carnarvon sweet corn trial contributes to student skillsBY ANNIE VAN BLOMMESTEIN PRESIDENT VEGETABLESWAInteractions have begun with Year 11 Carnarvon Community College students. It’s all systems go at the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development’s (DPIRD) Carnarvon Research Facility, with science facility upgrades underway, new horticulture researcher recruitments being finalised, existing trials revamped and fresh trial research being conducted. CARNARVON
Community College student Jake Kuzmicich, who is undertaing qualification in Rural Operations, and Plant Productions Systems at Central Regional TAFE, assists with the pest monitoring trial in a sweet corn crop at DPIRD's Carnaryon Research Facility.
THE pest monitoring will focus on establishment, thresholds, beneficial insect interactions and damage. Fall armyworm, which was first confirmed in Western Australia in early April 2020, was detected in a sweet corn crop in Carnarvon in late April. Researchers proposed a multi-purpose sweet corn trial at the facility to ‘feed two birds with one seed’ and examine bio-mineral versus conventional fertiliser systems, and pest monitoring focused on the new insect pest.
Corn is among the more favoured host plants for fall armyworm, as is sorghum, which has been planted as a windbreak in the trial.
The pest monitoring will focus on establishment, thresholds, beneficial insect interactions and damage, which will be assessed on the sweet corn and sorghum under the four fertiliser treatments which have been randomised in the paddock.
The simple fertiliser trial will allow some preliminary work to be conducted on the benefits of bio-mineral fertilisers on plant health and look into potassium usage rates in horticultural production. Research staff will compare the treatments by measuring yield, leaf nutrient ratios, cob quality and resistance to pests.
The team at Carnarvon invited senior school and TAFE students to participate in the trial and work beside DPIRD staff to gain first-hand knowledge of horticultural production systems and areas of research that benefit local and State-wide food production industries.
The broader aim under the PRIMED initiative is to engage school students to expand their knowledge about careers in primary industries and encourage students to consider career-path options in primary production. Careers in the primary industries are varied and cover areas such as production, design and communications, technology, business management, mechanics, science, marketing and sales, accounting, compliance and machinery operation, among others.
Interactions have begun with Year 11 Carnarvon Community College students studying Plant Production Systems and Central Regional TAFE students undertaking Rural Operations. The students have been out in the paddock gaining experience in phenological documentation, weed and insect monitoring and identification, and crop nutrition monitoring, as well as comparative assessment of the different treatments. In coming weeks, the students will be introduced to horticultural auditing systems, such as Freshcare and Worksafe, selective herbicide options, crop harvesting and the collation of research data and results. They have also been asked to investigate mass trapping options/prototypes for fall armyworm, which could include light and pheromone attractants.