Midyear Veg NET updateEfficient input use for a greater gross marginBY MICHAEL BARTHOLOMEW
So far this year, the agriculture industry has faced fresh challenges amidst one of the most challenging times to produce. Cost of production has become an increasing challenge that puts strain on farm budgets across the nation.One of the focus areas for VegNET in WA is addressing input use efficiency to ensure that your farm is getting the most out of what you put in!

Gone are the days of blanket applications of chemical and fertiliser. If you can avoid or delay applications and ensure that you are not over-applying then that can be a significant cost savings when multiplied by the size of your farm.

Over the last few months, it was great to see some growers south of Perth adopting soil moisture monitoring on their farms. Perth and surrounds have some difficult soils for growing crops on, Spearwood and Bassendean sands dominate the landscape and have very little water holding and cation exchange capacity, in simple terms; water and fertiliser fall straight through. vegetablesWA have recently assisted with a soil moisture trial which is hoped to expand into a demonstration site for other interested growers to inspect the technology and ask questions.

Soil moisture monitoring is hugely beneficial, as it doesn’t just focus on moisture monitoring — it can monitor fertiliser levels too. The accessible and affordable technology can be deployed on a farm in very little time and start producing accurate results within a day.

Using this information, sent directly to your phone, you can decide when to water (saving on pumping costs and water allocation) and when your crops may need additional fertiliser.

Placing monitoring probes at depth will also let you know if any water and fertiliser is being wasted past the root zone and tell you when the perfect irrigation timings are, to ensure that all inputs are being used as efficiently as possible.

Soil moisture monitoring is hugely beneficial.
VEGETABLESWA have recently assisted with a soil moisture trial which is hoped to expand into a demonstration site for other interested growers to inspect the technology and ask questions.Videos demonstrating how cheap and easy it can be to implement a biosecurity plan.LOCAL West Australian grower, Paul Glavocich talking about farm biosecurity for an upcoming short video series.New resources available for growers soon

A suite of new resources is currently in development to assist growers in tackling often complex tasks. One such tool is a series of biosecurity videos aimed at demonstrating how cheap and easy it can be to implement a biosecurity plan on your farm. Every farm is different; small growers don’t need a ten-thousand-dollar vehicle washing facility — it’s all about identifying the entry pathways of pest and disease and controlling them within the means of the size of your business.

After all, while biosecurity is a shared risk to the whole industry, it’s a business risk to your farm.

To compliment this, a new website tool will be made available soon. This tool aims to increase the accessibility of relevant and up-to-date information to growers. Currently, there is so much agricultural information available online that it can be difficult to find something that is relevant, in-date and available. Many websites currently have poor search functions, hidden documents or consist of hundreds of pages which are just too difficult for a time-poor grower to access and decipher.

Keep in mind the easiest option would be to contact an agronomist (or your local RDO!). However, this isn’t always feasible for everyone and being able to solve problems your way may be the best way of doing it. So, this new website tool will act as a guide and a catalogue of resources from across the web that fit some strict criteria:

1 The information must be easy to read and understand
2 The information must be relevant to West Australian production
3 Your local RDO can assist with any follow-up questions.

In doing this, it ensures that growers accessing this information don’t end up stuck or give up on their search because the information is either too fragmented, difficult to understand or not specific enough to their unique challenge.

Furthermore, VegNET WA will hold an additional business development focus, aimed at expanding and strengthening farm business management skills to increase competitiveness. While still early days, this focus will aim to increase the knowledge and skills of West Australian vegetable growers to grow their farm business and be resilient in the face of contemporary challenges. This will include all aspects of business development such as risk management planning, contingency and scenario budgeting and general business management knowledge to support growers at all levels of understanding. Get in touch if you would like to know how we can help!

There are many more promising farm trials coming up soon with some enthusiastic and passionate growers that it is an absolute pleasure to work alongside in growing the vegetable industry. If you would like to get involved with anything mentioned in this article, or if you would like to try something new and don’t know where to start, please reach out to your local Regional Development Officer.

Please contact Michael Bartholomew on 0427 373 037 or michael.bartholomew@ vegetableswa.com.au