Preliminary environmental audit of the Australian lychee industry (LY09002)
This is a final research report from Hort Innovation’s historical archives. Please note that as these reports may date back as far as the 1990s, the content and recommendations within them may be superseded by more recent research.
What was it all about?
The Australian Lychee industry instigated this project in order to identify the level of environmental performance of the industry at the time. This was to be achieved by conducting on-farm environmental audits across a sample of growers, and to verify audit results with a broader grower survey.
The industry comprised approximately 280 growers producing lychees on farms around the Atherton Tableland, Coastal Wet Tropics, Central Queensland, South east Queensland and Northern NSW. Most lychee farms were less than 10 ha in size, with few being greater than 50 ha.
The “average grower” involved in the on-farm audit was over 50 and grew and packed lychees in the Coastacl Wet Tropics. Their orchard was less than 10ha and their business was certified to Freshcare Food Safety. The average respondent to the e-survey was very similar; again being over 50, growing and packing lychees and being certified to Freshcare Food Safety. Their property was a little smaller, being less than 5ha in size and being in the Northern NSW / Southern Qld area.
Audits were conducted on 24 lychee growing properties selected from the industry database. Growers were randomly selected, however the numbers audited in each region reflected the proportion of national growers in that region.
Following the on-farm audits, a shorter grower survey was extracted from the audit checklist, with particular attention paid to those audit questions that had yielded inconclusive results. The survey was launched online using the Survey Monkey tool, and a link sent to all lychee growers on the ALGA database. Despite a number of requests and reminders to growers, only 10 responses were received.
In total, 34 businesses or approximately 12 per cent of the lychee industry participated in the environmental audit through the on-farm audits and the grower survey. Given the relatively small sample size the conclusions that could be drawn from this project were general in nature and should not have been considered a definitive industry or regional picture. Bearing these limitations in mind, it was still possible to develop a picture of the Australian lychee industry and for this to be used as a starting point from which to measure future progress in uptake of environmentally sustainable practices.
The audit and e-survey highlighted industry strengths, weaknesses and opportunities and potential threats. Strengths were identified in all management areas examined, including implementation of sound soil erosion control strategies, broad control of risks posed through storage, application and disposal of agricultural chemicals, responsible storage of fertilisers and effective co-existence with environmentally sensitive areas such as waterways, wetlands and areas of native vegetation.
Industry weaknesses included lack of monitoring of sprinkler output, which could adversely affect water and nutrient availability, lack of bunding and chemical spill kits in chemical storage areas, indications that appropriate disposal of chemically contaminated materials may not have always occured, inconsistent uptake / attendance at Integrated Pest Management training as well as reliance on contentious ‘soft’ chemicals, inconsistent use of soil and leaf testing to determine crop nutritional requirements, inability to identify all relevant declared weeds and lack of communication with neighbours regarding activities that may have impacted them.
Opportunities existed for the industry to promote the good practices being undertaken and to implement programs to address priority areas coming from this report. Threats to the industry included the use of endosulfan and relationships with neighbours, particularly given issues of urban expansion.
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This project was funded by Hort Innovation (then Horticulture Australia Limited) with the voluntary financial support of the lychee industry.
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