The PIPS3 program is all about providing apple and pear growers with new technology. advanced management systems and integrated biological management practices to pests, diseases and soil.
The investment Improved Australian apple and pear orchard soil health and plant nutrition (AP19006) is developing the knowledge needed on soil health and plant nutrition to maximise quality and yield in apple and pear orchards. This research is providing the tools for growers to create orchards that use resources efficiently and sustainably, particularly under an increasingly variable climate. This project is part of the PIPS3 program for the apple and pear industry (the third iteration of the Productivity, Irrigation, Pests and Soils program).
A user-friendly web app is being developed by the project team as a decision support tool, providing growers and consultants with practical, easy to use irrigation and nutrient management tools and resources that can be accessed in the field. The app will be driven by the ‘SINATA’ model, which is the Strategic Irrigation and Nitrogen Assessment Tool for Apples developed through earlier levy-funded research.
SINATA is a real-time, easy to use tool that calculates a current soil water balance, along with a seven-day forecast, to assist with tactical water management decision making. In parallel, it also calculates a soil N balance based on grower inputs, recommends N fertiliser requirements based on current tree demand, simulates N turnover, and estimates the potential environmental impact of different N fertiliser strategies.
Meet Brett Squibb, apple grower from Tasmania
Brett is a third-generation apple grower from Spreyton on the north-west coast of Tasmania. He’s one of the growers testing the new SINATA tool and believes it will make a difference to his management of irrigation and N fertiliser inputs.
“We’ve always had an interest in irrigation and what we’re doing with irrigation projection and nutrient forecasting. I believe that the timing of irrigation is critical. The more information we can have regarding the rates and timing of irrigation and nitrogen, the more it will help us to consistently produce premium fruit. “What challenges do you face? “For us, all the water we use is surface capture water, so irrigation is a very important part of what we do. Making sure we are irrigating at the right time and knowing when that is, would be our main challenge in our operations. If we could have some sort of forecasting model that lets us know what we are doing is the right thing that would be a massive benefit for the industry”.
What do you see as the on-farm benefits?
“The big one will be knowing that we’re using our water as efficiently as we can, especially when we haven’t got a river through the property or an irrigation scheme nearby. In terms of nutrients, if we can know we’re applying it at the right time and getting the maximum benefit out of what we do apply, we won’t be wasting product and possibly having a detrimental effect on the environment.”
Why should other growers get involved in the PIPs program?
“I think the more we can do, the more profitable we are going to be and there will be benefits for everybody. I’ve always worked on the theory that you can’t know too much and information you get is only as good as what you do with it.”
If we could have some sort of forecasting model that lets us know what we are doing is the right thing that would be a massive benefit for the industry” Brett Squibb, apple grower, Tasmania.