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Supporting potato growers in adopting improved practices on-farm

Publication date: 14 November 2022

The potato industry’s communication and extension program, known as PotatoLink, is keeping growers up to date

The investment Australian potato industry communication and extension project (PT20000) is tasked with supporting Australian potato growers in adopting improved practices on-farm and keeping up to date with the latest industry news, information, resources and technologies.

The project delivers a nationally coordinated but locally implemented program which employs regional delivery partners who provide specialist skills and knowledge to the industry. The role of the regional delivery partners is a broad one, with all activities geared towards improving the circulation and uptake of information within the industry.

As well as extension activities, the project produces key communication channels for the potato industry, including a hard copy quarterly R&D magazine, online webinars and podcasts, social media, and a dedicated website to host industry resources.

Meet Neville Quinlan, potato grower from Ballarat, Victoria

Neville Quinlan is a fifth-generation farmer from Ballarat in the central Victorian highlands, who manages his operation with his son, Tom. They are a 280-hectare mixed farming operation (120 hectares of which is leased) and grow processing potatoes, lucerne, fat lambs and grain. Each year they produce 7,000 tonnes of potatoes.

Why did you get involved in the program?

“We were originally encouraged to get involved with the potato extension and communications program by our agronomist, Stuart Grigg. Even through we have been farming in the region for generations there is still something that we can learn. As farmers we can sometimes get stuck in our habits of just doing things because it’s the way we have always done them.

“The main issues the potato industry is facing are soil diseases followed by insect pests. That’s why the program is hosting a site looking at using soil inoculants to build root and plant health while increasing disease suppression.”

Did you learn anything new?

“The program has a very “hands-on” approach with the way soil and plants samples were taken as well as how the crop was scouted for insects. It was different to what we have done in the past and challenged our way of thinking. You sort of get caught up in your own ways year in, year out and don’t change unless you are prompted through something like this program. “By paying more attention to what insects were present in the crop they have been able to reduce the time spent spraying insecticides, and the less chemical we use, the better for everyone.”

What are some of the benefits of being involved?

“Our involvement in the project is still early days but learning the way to go about taking soil and plants and what to be looking out for in terms of good and bad insects in the crop has changed the way we go about things, as we will likely look to use these methods on other sections of the farm.

“The initial results we see from the soil inoculant demo site are promising, with potato plants looking noticeably healthier with great root growth. We anticipate this will translate into a yield increase of around 2t/ha, if not more.

“One of the greatest benefits has been learning new ways of going about things that can help improve the way we go about things into the future. It’s good to be still learning, especially things I can pass onto my son.” Neville Quinlan, potato grower, Ballarat, VIC