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Completed project

Sowing success through transformational technologies (VG15021)

Key research provider: The University of Queensland
Publication date: Wednesday, June 30, 2021

What was it all about?

The aim of this investment was to provide new products with new uses for the Australian Vegetable Industry via transformational precision technologies. The team combined and refined the technologies via on-farm development with leading growers. Analysis at the start of the project confirmed high, positive net present value and benefit cost ratios, with predicted time to peak technology adoption at 7.8 to 12.9 years.

The project team successfully developed new cost-saving products that match operational needs with high potential benefit for the sector. This included a novel plant growth regulator (PGR1) previously shown to enhance crop resilience, plus technologies to enable its cost-effective delivery.

Development of a novel plant micro-dosing prototype

A novel precision application prototype for micro-dosing crops with PGRs was validated for use in commercial systems. The novel PGR1 and a commercial PGR were successfully delivered to several different crop varieties (Blackbelt lettuce, Aurora broccoli, Katana capsicum, Rebel tomato) with the effects lasting until trial termination (up to 10 weeks).

Importantly, this innovation significantly cut PGR costs relative to current mechanisms, due to the precise and targeted delivery. For example, economic analyses with Solanaceae crops showed the micro-dosing prototype delivered PGR1 at $110-1100 ha versus conventional application, which cost $110,000 ha (i.e. via a root drench), while spraying was ineffective.

The clever design minimises user error and can be automated, further reducing labour and other input costs. The prototype delivered the PGRs as well or more effectively than all the commercial delivery mechanisms that were trialled, including drenches, sprays and priming.

Validation of PGR1 as a tool to enhance crop resilience

The team validated PGR1’s effectiveness across a broad range of vegetable crops for enhanced resilience to environmental stress and disease. Various levied vegetable lines were tested, including lettuce, carrot, capsicum, pumpkin, broccoli, cauliflower, sweet corn and baby spinach, with  more than 90 per cent responsive to PGR1.

Crop stress studies determined that PGR1 was a crop multi-protectant, maintaining normal growth under suboptimal conditions that harmed untreated crops. Example PGR1 effects were:

  • Delayed bolting and improved yield quality for broccoli grown under suboptimal conditions, with delayed flowering and 16-30 per cent heavier heads formed in glasshouse and field studies
  • In capsicum, stronger plants with better structure and faster fruit formation were seen with PGR1 when grown on-farm under extreme heat wave/drought conditions. Growers confirmed that rapid quality fruit development was highly desirable to minimise grower risk.
  • In a parallel study, the team made a world-first discovery that PGR1 significantly suppressed disease in Solanaceae crops via an up-regulation of crop defence genes. Specifically, it halted disease progress and allowed normal fruit development, while untreated crops were highly diseased and produced fewer fruits.

Technology transfer and extension activities during the program included on-farm grower interviews, continuous consultative meetings with participating growers, several articles and presentations for industry, plus scientific publications.

In 2019, the team won the CSIRO ON Prime accelerator program. Additional R&D Advance Queensland, ACIAR and UQ funding bolstered the project’s outcomes.

ACT NOW

Read about On farm evaluation of vegetable seed viability using non-destructive techniques (VG16028) on page 2 of Vegenotes, March/April 2018.

Related levy funds
Details

ISBN:
978-0-7341-4702-8

Funding statement:
This project is a strategic levy investment in the Hort Innovation Vegetable Fund

Copyright:
Copyright © Horticulture Innovation Australia Limited 2021. The Final Research Report (in part or as whole) cannot be reproduced, published, communicated or adapted without the prior written consent of Hort Innovation (except as may be permitted under the Copyright Act 1968 (Cth)).