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Growing the processing tomato industry to ensure Australian producers are the pick of the bunch

Publication date: 11 February 2022

This industry development program supports awareness and adoption of research and development outcomes, delivers best practice information, enhances the skills of existing industry participants, and encourages new entrants to build capacity.

The challenge

Ensuring the industry is up to date with the latest techniques, technologies and practices, and that it’s easily able to adopt the recommendations of various research and development projects to improve productivity, quality and profitability

Meet Johanna

Johanna Morgan is an agronomist with Kilter Rural, which manages 765 hectares of conventional and organic tomatoes. She’s acutely aware of the need to build capacity in the industry and the role of programs like this in doing so. “They’re important to ensure we stay relevant and up to date with the latest agricultural technology and industry developments,” says Johanna.

That includes program communications, like the Australian Processing Tomato Grower Magazine. “It pulls together all the trial data from the season and has a recap of everything that is relevant to the industry stakeholders. It’s really helpful.”

Although limited by COVID, field days and annual R&D forums are an important part of the program, says Johanna. “They promote discussion with other growers and agronomists regarding new operations, technology, chemicals, and other important aspects of the industry. It’s really beneficial hearing from service providers and product suppliers about new things coming to market and whether or where it can fit in our operation.”

The program also produces an annual data and statistics report, which features a collection of industry benchmark data and statistics, supported by on-farm trials, including cultivar evaluation trials – the results of which are then presented to growers. “These are extremely helpful,” says Johanna. “Nothing is quite like seeing it in the paddock though, but the data and statistics do help to sort out what is of importance to consider on the farm. Every other agriculture industry is continuously improving their varieties. It’s important we do the same, with improved quality parameters, disease resistance, etc.”

In November 2020, a group-based pest and disease early warning ‘Workplace’ app was set up, which Johanna has incorporated into her crop management. “I use this regularly to receive updates within our areas. It helps keep me informed.”

The approach

The program team are keeping the industry informed via the annual Australian Processing Tomato Grower Magazine and quarterly Tomato Topics newsletters and regular field days and annual R&D forums.

The impact

Research continues with cultivar and small-pot trials planted to find suitable replacement cultivars. A full report of the trials is included in the annual Australian Processing Tomato Grower magazine, along with information comparing the performance cultivars to one over a period of years.

Via the ‘Workplace’ app, information is provided by agronomists on their pest and disease observations from different regions and the APTRC team summarise the information, check it for accuracy and then post to the application. You can learn more about the app here on the APTRC website.

The pre-Christmas field day and information evening in the Lake Boga region also went ahead as planned. Integrated pest management (IPM) and non-chemical disease and weed suppression techniques were discussed, as well as rotational cropping with cotton and tomatoes and a Q&A session about farming practices and what challenges and benefits this season has brought.

In addition, the industry survey was completed in December 2020, which focused on the industry’s performance over the past 2019/20 season, with comparisons to previous seasons.

A new five-year program Processing tomato industry development and extension (TM20000) will build on and extend the excellent results of this program.