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Completed project

Multi-scale monitoring tools for managing Australian tree crops – phase 2 (various projects)

Key research provider: The University of New England and many others
Publication date: Friday, June 30, 2023

What was it all about?

This project was a collaborative piece of work funded through the Australian Government’s Rural R&D for Profit initiative. The overarching program continued the development, trial and extension of technology-based crop mapping and monitoring tools to help growers in predicting fruit quality and yield, and monitoring tree health – including in the early detection of pest and disease outbreaks.

On a wider, whole-of-sector scale, the program further developed the Australian Tree Crop Rapid Response Map, which can be used to assist in biosecurity and disaster response efforts. 

YIELD FORECASTING

Remote sensing (satellite and airborne) methodologies for yield forecasting developed. Classified maps of tree vigour variation across orchard blocks and whole farms (for citrus, mango and olive orchards) were derived from satellite imagery to better understand variability across orchards and direct in field assessments of fruit quality, size and maturity. RFID tag technology deployed on farm to improve forecasting of banana production.

NATIONAL MAPPING

All commercial avocado, banana, citrus, macadamia, mango, and olive orchards (> 1 ha) mapped. The map is published within the Australian Tree Crop Map Dashboard and is available in industry-specific dashboard applications (hosted on industry websites).

YIELD FORECASTING

Remote sensing (satellite and airborne) methodologies for yield forecasting developed. Classified maps of tree vigour variation across orchard blocks and whole farms (for citrus, mango and olive orchards) were derived from satellite imagery to better understand variability across orchards and direct in field assessments of fruit quality, size and maturity. RFID tag technology deployed on farm to improve forecasting of banana production.

FRUIT HARVEST TIMING & VOLUME IN MANGOES

Two tools to aid forecast of harvest timing were progressed, involving heat units and fruit dry matter content. The use of handheld near infrared spectroscopy to assess dry matter content was advanced.

MACHINE VISION TECHNOLOGY (MANGO)

A machine vision system mountable on a farm vehicle was developed and implemented in whole orchard fruit count exercises. The tool provided pre-harvest forecasting of fruit size and distribution.

MECHANICAL HARVESTER PROTOTYPE (MANGO)

An eight-arm prototype was developed and deployed in field trials in central Qld and Katherine, NT. Improvements in gripper design and arm movements provided increased speed and effectiveness.

WATER STRESS IN OLIVES

Increased understanding of the impacts of water stress on yield, oil accumulation and final oil  content to inform irrigation and production decisions.

Who was involved in the work?

This multi-scale monitoring tools project involved some nine sub-projects sitting under an overarching project ST19000, with a variety of teams all led by Hort Innovation. The key sub-projects are listed below, with their main research provider – noting that other delivery partners may have also been involved in each piece of work.

  • ST19008, with the University of New England
  • ST19009, with Central Queensland University
  • ST19010, with TieUp Farming
  • ST19011, with Australian Mango Industry Association
  • ST19012, with Northern Territory Department of Industry, Tourism and Trade
  • ST19013, with the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries
  • ST19014, with the NSW Department of Primary Industries
  • ST19015, with the University of New England
  • ST19016, with Ceres Imaging

What is the Rural R&D for Profit program?

The Australian Government’s Rural R&D for Profit program is a competitive grants initiative that boosts funding to the country’s 15 rural research and development corporations. It supports nationally coordinated research for the benefit of Australian primary producers, outside of the levy system. Since the program begun in 2015, Hort Innovation has led or otherwise supported a number of collaborative Rural R&D for Profit projects, including this one. You can learn more about the program on the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment’s website here.

ACT NOW

Visit the University of New England website here to view the map and other applications. Anyone can review the map in the ‘Industry Engagement Web App’ or use the ATCM Survey, if anything is missing or a new orchard is being planted – use these tools to bring it to the attention of the research team at UNE.‚Äč

As an example, see how the map is being applied within the Australian Mango Industry Association in this video by Marine Empson (Industry Development Manager).

Details

This project was managed by Hort Innovation and supported by funding from the Australian Government's Rural R&D for Profit program.

The citrus R&D levy was also invested in the program's specific ST19008 through the Hort Innovation Citrus Fund.