Facilitating the development of the Australian berry industries (MT18020)
What was it all about?
From 2019 to 2023, this multi-industry investment supported Australian berry growers to adopt improved practices on-farm and kept them up to date with the latest industry news, information, resources and technologies.
The project was delivered as a nationally coordinated, locally implemented industry development program. All berry growers in Australia now have access to a local Industry Development Officer (IDO), with specialist skills and knowledge to support the range of extension and communication needs of the different industries within berries. This is underpinned by an effective and modern communications program including the quarterly Australian Berry Journal, the Burst e-Newsletter and the Berries Australia website.
A whole of berries approach aimed to improve efficiencies and allow for coordinated extension of the many cross-berry R&D projects as well as a platform for commodity specific project extension.
The COVID-19 pandemic had a significant influence on project delivery, particularly in terms of a restriction on in-person activities and the need for the IDOs to redirect focus to helping growers navigate the complex health requirements, supply chain issues and severe labour shortages. However, knowledge transfer continued via the Journal, e-Newsletter and email updates from IDOs to growers. The communication resources have been widely acknowledged as highly informative, timely and relevant across all berry categories. This is evidenced through the continual increase in distribution of the Journal and a consistent above average open rate of The Burst e-Newsletter.
Increased adoption of research and changes to on-farm decision making and practices has been observed to a degree, although it is to be expected that this level of change may be down in comparison to a three-year project that was not affected by a pandemic.
The majority of on-farm practice change has occurred in the area of on-farm health and safety practices, and changes to labour acquisition and retention, with growers having to adjust to the restrictions limiting access to labour as a result of the pandemic. Increase in adoption on practice change has also been observed in the following areas, as evidenced through participation and feedback from knowledge transfer activities and accessing of online information:
- Increased interest in protected cropping including transitions to tabletop and/or tunnel production
- Increased adoption of new varieties through Australian Breeding Program
- Improved on-farm biosecurity management inc. response to Varroa mite incursion and blueberry rust detection in WA.
- Increased interest in accessing information or learning more about export opportunities being developed as part of the Joint berry industry export trade development project (MT20004).
- Improved understanding of chemical resistance issues through knowledge transfer activities and involvement of industry in SARP review process.