Future-proofing horticulture in a changing climate

Short introduction

Agriculture Victoria hosted a free horticulture field day at the Tatura SmartFarm on Thursday, 23 March providing an opportunity for industry to discuss what is happening on farm, what is working and what isn’t, after a few challenging years.

Future proofing horticulture in a changing climate.

Introduction by Aimee McCutcheon (Ag Vic) to the Horticulture Field Day event: Future-proofing horticulture in a changing climate. Tatura SmartFarm, 23 March 2023

Transcript: Future-proofing horticulture in a changing climate - Introduction Aimee McCutcheon

I'd like to kick things off by acknowledging the traditional owners of the land, of the Yorta Yorta people which we're meeting today and we pay our respects to the eldest past, present, and emerging and aboriginal elders of other communities who may be present each day.

So I want to be upfront and acknowledge that the horticultural industry is experiencing some cumulative effects at the moment and has been for the last number of years. We acknowledge and we understand that there has been some challenges and, but maybe the key challenges are listed up there as unseasonal conditions with the recent flood and hail and the wet and cool and humid season that we've had. There's also been freight issues with container shortages, packaging shortages, and logistics disrupted. We've also had issues with high input costs because most of the input costs rely on importation and export exchange rate and supply disruptions. We're aware I am aware that the toll of these challenge and what they bring to your business, but also to you personally, but with adversity, there becomes opportunities. So there's opportunities to innovate, adapt, and become more resilient. And that's why we're here today. I just wanted to acknowledge that from the start. Although we have, and let's face it, we've faced many challenges in the past, horticulture is very important to Victoria. Victoria Horticulture is diverse, so there's about 2,760 farm businesses operating in Victoria.

And that accounts for about 13% and for Australia, 20% of farm businesses. So there's quite a few horticulture farm businesses in Victoria. Unfortunately, it was, you can see it has declined from 2019, only 1%. We're still hanging in. There is approximately, there's approximately 121,000 hectares in Victoria used for horticulture production, and that's represented by the figure there. So it roughly equates to about 26% of the state. And that land use has a diverse range of climates, soil types, and the actual Victoria's compact size ensures that we have access to export and domestic markets and processing. So Victoria's. Victoria horticulture has state and nationwide importance. Victoria's Australia's second largest horticulture producer at 23%, and it's valued at 3.2 million billion, sorry, billion.

And that's a 3.8% increase from 2019-20. So the figures don't lie. Horticulture is important to Victoria. And we know that Victoria's Australia's largest producers of pears at 90%, peaches at 86%, nectarines at 77%. And then there's the olives, almonds, tomatoes, apples are among the other horticulture produced. But it's not just to Australia, it's also to the world. So in 2021- 22 Victorian exports commenced a rebound from the global supply chain disruptions and Victoria's Australia's largest horticultural exporter at 48%, and it's valued at 1.4 billion, and that's a 1% increase year on year. So we're holding our own on the export market.

China was the biggest value export market valued at 381 million, followed by Vietnam at 120 million, and India at 106 million and Victorian horticulture export markets are predominantly located in Asia, and India and Indonesia are growing, and they're the third and fourth largest markets for Victorian horticulture.

So hopefully this slide illustrates their strong export opportunities and a positive export future.

And bringing it down to a regional level, horticulture is important to the Goulburn Valley. I don't have to tell you that you're all sitting here in the Goulburn Valley. The gross value of agriculture production for the Goulburn region is actually more than that slide states. It's well and truly at about $2.12 billion in 2021, and it's one of Victoria's largest horticulture producing regions with almost 50% value of the Victorian fruits if you exclude grapes, because we can't forget about grapes in Mildura. So we'll just exclude those for today and say that about 50% of the value of Victoria's fruits is growing here in the Goulburn Valley. We're well connected to domestic and international markets with direct access to Melbourne and Sydney. And interesting enough, over 25% of truck registrations in Victoria come from the Goulburn valley, and we have access to modern irrigation systems and technology with the recent investments of over 2 million via the Goulburn Murray water. So the Goulburn Valley has a lot to offer to Victoria horticulture, to Australian horticulture, and to international markets.

So what is the Victorian government doing to progress the Victorian horticulture and to ensure that we are meeting challenges and opportunities? The Victorian government has this Victorian strategy. It's a strategy that outlines the way forward to help Victorian agriculture to meet and adapt to these challenges and opportunities.

There's clear focus areas, which you can see in the middle there. Recover, grow, modernize, protect, and promote. And over on the right-hand side are ways that we're supporting the horticultural industry to do that. So there's support for growers with information and tools to build resilience, to help recover, and protect their agriculture industries and businesses, ensuring Victorian horticulture is well placed to manage climate risk and continues to be productive and profitable, and promote Victoria's horticulture as high quality and high performance.

So drilling down, what's Agriculture Victoria's role in the agricultural strategy?

Agriculture Victoria works with and collaborates with industry and community stakeholders to support agriculture to become more globally competitive and innovative. Two areas of agriculture Victoria, going to be highlighted here today, one of which is agricultural services horticulture who design and deliver services to growers and service providers, and a couple of examples there of that is the farm business resilience program and flood recovery, which is about ensuring that businesses are resilient into changing climate conditions and into the future, and we also lead the horticultural industry and biosecurity, urban plant health, energy smart farming networks on behalf of Agriculture Victoria. So very targeted services to areas for development in the horticultural industry. and we also have a web presence. So if you've all got a smartphone, the web presence is www.him.com au. And on that, you'll find packaging of information and resources for the horticultural industry, particularly showcasing some of the research that we're going to present today.

Agriculture, Victoria Research - Horticulture, they're trying to they are achieving step change improvements in horticulture through innovation with leading science and capability. And a classic example of that is where we are today at the Tatura SmartFarm. So the Tatura SmartFarm is Australia's leading horticulture research facility, and it's linked to the Mildura Smart Farm. So the aim of the Tatura SmartFarm is to deliver precise and efficient fruit systems. So from the fruit orchard all the way through to the export market. And in that chain, it's to demonstrate applications of technology and research in particular, in future orchard design, precise and efficient orchard management and customize post-harvest management.

I'm not going to dwell on those on the details of those because you're going to hear the presentations today. I'd like to acknowledge Simone Warner, who's the head of Agriculture Victoria Research, if she's in the room. That's good. I know she's on site today.

So my final slide, I'd like to just leave you all with contemplating the future. This is the vision for Agriculture Victoria that's outlined in the agricultural strategy. It, it points to where we are heading and what we are working towards and clearly see that there is a bright future in horticulture. We know that we are creative, resilience and responsive and capitalizing on technology. We want to be the, in the engine of growth for the Victorian economy and the exports and production stats allude to that. We want to increase our exports and make sure that we've got diverse markets. And most importantly, that we're attracting the best and brightest to our farms and our regions. Let's take today as an opportunity to ponder where does your business fit in this, in this cycle, and where do you want to be and how are we going to get there?

I'll let you ponder those two questions as we go throughout the day.

If only I knew what future weather would be like.

Dale Grey (Ag Vic) presents information on future climate outlooks.

Transcript: If only I knew what future weather would be like - Dale Grey Ag Vic

So I've been asked today to, I think the topic that Andy asked me to speak about " how can I know what the weather's going to do?" Well, what a cow of a question really. So I've sort of titled- it's predicting the weather and inverted commas past seven days. Many of you may or may not know that all the world's best computer models for predicting weather are only good at day seven. Once they get to day eight, flipping coins is more accurate, and that doesn't stop them from making predictions past day seven. They do, you'll get the predictions out to 14 days, but at day eight there's probably one model in the world that's okay at day eight, a European model. But the rest of them at day seven, they really start to deteriorate. And so the question of course is, well, that's fantastic, but I'd really like to have some idea about what was going on in the next fortnight and the next month. So that's what I'm gonna sort of speak about here. And I suppose once we get past the weather forecast of day seven, we start to get into the world of climate rather than weather because we aren't able to predict what storm will happen in 12 days time.

And we have to look at those overarching things such as sea surface temperatures around Australia, pressure patterns and what they're doing, and , you know, whether the southern annular mode in the southern ocean is dragging the frontal systems away or pushing them up. So these broad sort of puppeteer strings that are going on that are pushing the weather in a particular direction, but not necessarily driving the weather.

So, because we are Goulbun irrigators, I'm presuming, most of us, the closest data set that I could get off my little website that does this thing we're about to see is from Alexandra. And that's just the spring rainfall there since 1900, and we've got a whole suite of climate drivers here as well with the rainfall and things that you've all heard of, El Nino, La Nina, perhaps less known the Indian Ocean dipole, both it's positive and negative phases. And that's a very colorful graph, but it's not overly helpful except it shows you the variability is crazy. If we stack those from lowest to highest rainfall, things start to fall out a bit, because our El Ninos, which are orange and red here are nearly all in the lower half. And our La Ninas, which are blue and the dark blue, there's a fair swag of them up here. Our negative IODs, which are the wetter climate driver, are nearly all in the top half, and our positive IODs, which are periously close to that colour on this screen, which is a bit weird, are also down this end. But you can see that there is the odd, weird thing going on. So there's the odd dry climate driver here that's been quite wet, and there's the odd wetter one down here, which has been quite dry. So these climate drivers are not set in stone. They do not guarantee any particular outcome. It's all about probability. They increase the chance of it being wetter or they increase the chance of it being dryer.

This is perhaps a more interesting graph. So this is this is the Doherty's gauge on the Goulburn River and the upper Goulburn up towards, I always forget the name of the location up there, up towards the top of the great divide anyway, south of the, of Lake Eildon. And what we've done here is we've looked at the flow in that river system in the years that are El Nino. La Nina, positive IOD or negative IDO, and we've put that into where that fits historically, whether it's in the wettest third of records in blue, the average third of records in yellow, or the driest third of records in red. And so this clearly puts an absolute fudge on that stuff that La Nina equals flood and El Nino equals drought, because that is simply not true. They don't equal that at all, and they never have. They are a spread of outcomes and they distinctly increase the probability of a certain outcome, but they don't dismiss the fact that occasionally the exact opposite has happened. But because you are farmers, you are gambling every year in the wheel of life in how much rainfall falls out of the skye, and if your roulette wheel, you knew at the start of the season was stacked in a way like that, you go, well, I actually don't think I would like to play that wheel. I'd like to play one that's a third, third, third, thank you very much. That would be better. Or I wanna play one like this, which has got a much wetter outcome, more likely. So this is the positive IOD and the negative IOD. The interesting thing you can see with the flow in this stream, river, is that La Nina, out of all those three is perhaps the most fluffiest. It's got a, you know, almost a 50% chance of being wetter, but there's been a quarter of ones that have been drier. But if we look at the rainfall locally to here, it's not quite the same as that La Nina historically had a more well, has had a greater outcome in terms of La Nina being wetter.

This is the whole list of all those years, and so to tell you that, you know, rainfall in the highest third of records, big deal. Well, there's actually been only two years there that have been decile eight to the highest, 80 to 90% of records. But there's been seven years there that have been, when we have had El Nino, that have been decile one, the lowest 10% of records. Some of those were particularly painful for us. 82, 2006, 1994, and more recent memory there in the last of those six. Interestingly enough, 91 and 90 93, which would be in a lot of people's memories here as well, were El Ninos, but they were the two wetter ones and they sort of backed up quite close to each other. When I first started my career in agriculture, it wasn't long after these events and people basically told me, Dale, look, there's nothing in this El Nino - La Nina stuff. It's a Queensland thing. You know, just don't worry about that. And if you were looking at those two years, well, you'd probably be thinking, well, that was probably right. When you started looking at history, you can see, well, that's probably perhaps not the case.

This is just the Tatura data. It almost looks the same. You've still got those two decile eight years, although 1965 slips in now. There's a big, sort, a bigger chunk of average years but it's still about half the years have been below the average Decile 1, 2, 3. And the classic ones of, well, 2002, 2006, 1982 are the ones that sneak in down there. I thought I'd show this graph here. This is the effect on rainfall in terms of the red dots are at least a 30% decrease in the August to November rainfall spatially across Victoria, and the years that have been El Nino, and you can see that has a very strong north of the divide effect, because of that rainfall that would, might be, or should be streaming or the moisture that should be streaming from the northern parts in the years of El Nino and positive IOD for that matter, is decreased. That moisture source is decreased to the north of Australia. Things are not coming down as they ought to, and so you're getting this sort of almost a reverse rain shadow effect going on there.

I thought it would be interesting to have a look back at the past. So you may or may not know that I've been putting out a newsletter for the last 17 years, I think every month I've looked at over 12 climate models from around the world and assessed what they were predicting for rainfall for Victoria and temperature, and what the Pacific and the Indian oceans were up. And so, I had to go back to a paper copy last night and take a picture of it. This is the December, 2010 predictions from the models we were looking back then. And we actually had a La Nina already by then, the Indian Ocean was doing nothing, but what were the predictions for rainfall from the models back at that time? And we can remember that there was in that period, this dark blue area there is, it had highest on record rainfall, so it was a very wet time. It was pretty ordinary. We've just come out of the millennium drought and it was hard to believe that a lot of these models were lining up with not just looks like it could be wetter, but it looks like it's much likely to be wetter rainfall. So we've got the European model here, the POAMA, which was the bureau's model at the time, with a wetter forecast for Eastern half of Victoria, and a lot of these other places had wetter eastern halves as well. It was a pretty strong forecast that wasn't just likely to be a bit wetter. It was likely to be much wetter. And that was at the time hard to believe, but that's in fact what turned out to be the case.

2016 there was sniffing of La Nina at that time, but we had a negative Indian Ocean di pole, the rain giving system potentially from the Indian Ocean. And once again the models were not as emphatic, they were pretty much sitting more on this, well, what I've got here is a slightly wetter one. It just meant that out of all the model runs that the model did, there was a large percentage of them going for wetter, but not as large as those ones that were getting marked as wetter like they were in 2010. But as we know, this is just the August, October rainfall prediction. And it was certainly wet in many parts of Victoria in that time as well.

If we look at 2018 we had some predictions of an El Nino, but we also have, we had plenty of predictions of a positive IOD, the dryer section of the Indian Ocean. And we also had more, vast majority of the models here going for drier signals as well , and you might be thinking up there and going, Dale, I want more, give me more detail here. I don't, you know, this is slightly dry business. I can't run a farm like that. But the sad news is with much of this climate forecasting you need to think of The Castle and Dennis Denuto , it is the vibe you are looking for. You are not going to get specifics from models saying that in the next three months you're likely to get 58 millimeters on these dates and you should spray it these times to counteract that. That's not a lot in life. When we're looking past seven days, it's about what is more likely and what are the odds increasing of.

We also had 2019 was another positive IOD. That spring, autumn, winter season as well. Lots of predictions of drier once again, and in fact north of the divide. That was a very strong event with plenty of decile one rainfall. And most recently, what were the models staying last year in July of 2022, there was talk of a La Nina but we already had a negative IOD happening, and there's just models lighting up across the board here with wetter, but once again, like in 2010, we started to see for the first time a lot of models with these emphatic predictions of likely to be wetter, particularly north of the divide, but also over the whole of Victoria as a whole, and as we know, that's exactly what.

What I might do here is just have a look at, people may or may not know, the bureau meteorology changed their model, they didn't changed their model, but they changed the way the model presents its data in the last year and a bit to now, I think being the most complex model, able to develop the, show data in the whole of the world. It probably went from the most simplistic one, to now the most complex one. If you press on any of the map, so we usually get this chance of above and below median map here, the one that we have loved to hate over many years, and now if you click anywhere on this map on your phone or on a website or you can go into here and type in Tatura like I did, you can now not just get, what's the chance of getting above the average, you can get what the last 99 model runs of the last three days have binned out like in terms of deciles. This is the forecast for the next three months, and you've got what have you got? 36% of all those models are in decile one and two. A slightly higher amount of 20% is in decile five, and 6, but the number of models predicting wetter rainfall at decile seven to 10 is decreased to, you know, 6% really low amounts of the high rainfall models. So that's a drier trend that model. This model will not be wrong. I'll give you the tip. It will, the rainfall in the next three months is gonna fall somewhere between decile one and decile 10. But the odds at the moment are going for the drier end of things.

I will just finish off with what the forecasts are for the next three months from my big suite of models. We have a number of models sniffing an El Nino in the wind,. You would've heard a lot of talk about an El Nino at the moment. That's about all it is at the moment. Talk. And the models talking. We have almost zero evidence for an El Nino either starting to form or certainly not formed at all. We've started to get a lot more models now predicting a positive IOD as well. Despite those drier climate drivers, we have a significant suite of models who've got a drier trend for the next three months. So it's not just the bureau's model that's here that's got a drier outlook, but it's got plenty of mates as well. And so the forecast for the next three months is slightly drier. Can we, this tells us absolutely no information about the timing of the seasonal break, if we've got some people with a few sheep or cows in the room. It tells us absolutely nothing, because that will be an act of weather with a predictably about seven days about what will line up and will we get enough rainfall to get grass to start growing or will it not? But the overarching trend for the next three months is drier at a time of the year, I would add, when we have the poorest predictability, so autumn is always the most rubbish time for believing predictions and for getting ones that are meaningful.

So even though we've got lots of predictions for El Nino, positive IOD, there is so much random weather that will need to happen up in the tropical Pacific Ocean and the Indian Ocean to potentially get those to happen, and at this time of the year, it is, you really are up to these random weather events that happen up in the tropics that can kick these things off or not. And one would imagine if those climate drivers don't come through, well the dryer ones won't either, so that might not be a bad thing. There's plenty of people, I'm think, hoping for a drier season this year, aiming particularly in hort land.

I need some tips on managing disease in my orchard.

Nic Finger from Fruit Health discusses tips on managing disease in my orchard.
Black spot / Brown rot

Transcript: I need some tips on managing disease in my orchard. Nic Finger - Fruit Health

We will start off talking a little bit about last year, as I said, challenging year pear scab, 21 infection periods through last spring, and really hard back to back to back. There was a period in mid September where I think probably a few guys got caught out as well as in October, where it just kept going and then obviously with the flooding and standing water through the orchard, all of a sudden it was just hard to get out there to cover up and everything just started to spiral.

So early mid-September, there's that nice picture over the words, 'added difficulty with the flooding'. Most orchards either had standing water or some flood water in there, so it was quite difficult. Where things got really bad, we've had that build up over the last couple of seasons. So Mick Crisera made the comment, that there's generally been primary infections over the last couple of seasons. You got carryover inoculum, so we started off with a little problem. 21 was quite wet, 22 was even wetter. And so we've got this buildup, exponential buildup of inoculum and pressure for disease.

Black spot for apples, 13 primary infections. Probably less of an issue up here but it does still happen. Got some good large releases of ascospores early, which helps with pressure, but still there. And then Brown rot another fungi for other growers and that sort of thing. Wet and human conditions make things difficult with that humid condition, spray products might have been, might not have been drying properly before events. So there's also that. As I said, challenges: inoculum build up, more pressure, pretty straightforward. So you can see where we're going to go as far as fixing things. It's difficult to apply products, lots of rainfall. I can imagine there was quite a few guys with bogged tractors and then that flooding after that initial sort of establishment of disease and a few orchards saw the issue. And whilst we tend to think this year was a little bit late, there's 30th of August getting quite a bit of movement in pears. A lot of guys probably weren't quite onto it, I would say with slowdown of oil and stuff, that first spray probably snuck a little bit later, because people waited for product.

Pretty basic, but if you get an early establishment, the pressure goes up and everything starts to hammer on, and then you need to maintain cover through that summer period, we kept getting rain. So we had disease that just kept on rolling.

So this is out of Rimpro, so one of the models out there. This one's available by Marcel, as you can see after here, got a green tip at the 1st of September there, which is about, little bit later where that one was. But this period I've highlighted in pink -quite a lot of , . And we look at the rainfall in the dark blue down here. It's really difficult to actually cover that. So if you've got a 25 ml rainfall event, most protectants have actually washed and you've got to get back on and possibly back on again in that period. So it was pushing the proverbial uphill a little bit.

Flooding came in on that arrow. So if you already had an established population there, you're about three weeks later, you wouldn't start to see it. Pressure continued to rise and keep getting multiplied out. So a difficult year for spraying is probably the summary of the first half year. It was hard, but it is what it is. So as far as what you've got to be thinking next year, if you've got a problem, you might have a problem, even if you didn't have a problem, it's probably a good idea to be drawn and reduce your pressure. so keep it clean, reduce your inoculum levels. Urea in the post-harvest period is a good way to start to break down leaves. They don't, you don't want to go too early. Probably talking early, mid-May if you're looking for that real breakdown period. But if you're looking for more than nutritional benefit, you might be looking a bit earlier at a lower rate. Copper-chelate or other heavy metals, so zinc, iron will do it as well. Probably again, that early mid-may. Phytotoxicity is a risk, so be careful when you're playing with fire but need to drop leaves. That's an option to get things down faster. Once those leaves are on the ground, break them down faster as well. So urea onto the ground through the weed sprayer. Options like that. And then probably the big one, if you've got severe pressure, looking to sweep and mulch. So leaf sweepers, not super common. And then obviously targeting pruning earlier into the blocks that have of a problem so you can get 'em cleaned up faster, get everything broken down earlier to reduce that spore load for next year.

Mick gave me this picture, this for the guys who've mounted stuff, which is most, and then you've got quite a large mound. Something like this is an option just to get that sweep. So that's a sweeper, drive through, mulcher on the back. Sweep on mulch through, break up the leaves so they're smaller, they break down faster - spore load drops. That's the idea there.

Outside of breaking down inoculum, so reducing our pressures, that's one strategy, we also got to look at our sprayers. Getting 'em calibrated, serviced, everything working beautifully is awesome. Probably varying degrees of people doing this, but if you've got a problem, it's probably one of the first things to look. Then also making is, that it's right for the canopy you're trying to do. There's no point traveling at 12 kms an hour and only the spray on the bottom half of the tree and pulling that spray down. You're going to spray, you got to get coverage. That might mean if you can't get the spray to calibrate in that way or set up, getting the canopy optimized. If the trees are too tall or too dense, you're not getting adequate coverage. So either you need to adjust your coverage or adjust your canopy. It's a little bit of both.

If you do have vigour issues, addressing them. If you've got less susceptible to tissue for a lesser period, you've got less chance of infections. But first and foremost, you've got to get that good coverage to match your canopy. So if you are spraying really large open trees versus a very dense Tatura trellis, you've got to match that canopy with what you're actually trying to do. Got to cover tissue with the protectants.

And the other side of it, which definitely some people got caught out on, do you need more sprays? Or operators? So really, and people will probably laugh, you want to be trying to be able to cover in a day. I know it's very difficult on the scale that a lot of operators are up here, but that period through September, if you couldn't cover in a day, you would really going to struggle.

Getting onto it early, late dormant period. Good coverage. So copper, even Bordeaux is very sticky. It's a pain to mix but worth of consideration. Protectants are going to be your foundation through that spring period as the new tissue comes. So starting early, continue to cover, use the models. I know most of the retail guys, so Caldwells and Nutriens and Elders, most are tapping into models, so talk to them. That's probably the first place to start if you had an issue. And then choose appropriate sprays for the conditions. If it's going to rain very heavily, something like a magazine product tends to wash off a little bit faster, so something else may be more appropriate. So some are more sticky, so stick around for a bit longer, and I just threw this one in there. The most expensive spray is the one that doesn't work. I know a lot of spray programs cost a lot of money, but the cost on having 40% of your crop lost to scab or black spot or whatever else, is much more expensive than another 60 bucks a hectare.

As far as kickbacks and curatives, you know, protectants -number one, try to be covered as best you can. Things do come through. If you've missed it, you've got to get back on as soon as possible. Different chemistries have different periods to get it on with in, but making sure we're also rotating, so don't be just hitting the same chemical over and over, actually have a legal obligation to do that. But it's just poor form because if you keep going, we won't have that product in the future.

So in summary, reducing inoculum levels, sweep, mulch, post harvest sprays. Get the leaf broken down as fast as possible. Check your sprayer coverage. Calibrate your sprayer to your canopy. Make sure you got enough operators, and then get a plan in place -which products you're going to use, when you'll use them. Do you have enough spray pump capacity? Can you get it done in time? Tree vigour, canopy density? Do you need to make any modifications and then get in the orchard from mid August and start watching for susceptible tissue and getting that first spray on. If you've had an issue, it's very unlikely you'll completely nail it in the next spring. So you want to be almost right on top of it than being a bit lax.

How can I make sure my soil is healthy after waterlogging?

Darren Cribbes from Connexus Global discusses soil is healthy after waterlogging.

Transcript: How can I make sure my soil is healthy after waterlogging - Darren Cribbes Connexus Global

So healthy soils is probably the most challenging part of starting this. What the hell is it? And I think the easiest part of a healthy soil from where I come from a consulting point of view is to figure out the constraints that's limiting production. We had Dale's talk earlier touched on. Talk, Ben gave a very good overview of some topics that I'll touch on around reducing habitat for pathogen. So that's the sort of thing that we'll be touching on today. So I'm going to give you the summary version right now and that's really to try and encourage you to do more soil testing.

I cover off a range of tests that are available for you trying to identify constraints and then be looking with your agronomists to look at how you're going to manage them. So all I've got is soil tests to sell. So it is not a hard pitch, it's intended to inform. Alright? Now contrary to pop your belief, you cannot buy soil health. Sorry, to the retail agronomists in the room. But you can have a go if you want. And I think this is the slide that I often use in my presentations. This is probably what we do in agriculture and we think we've got a good grip on things, but you know, the two presentations earlier indicate how challenging it is and what's around the corner that's going to bite us. So from a soil health point of view, what I'm really looking at is to look at, trying to look at management practices that are going to be looking long-term.

So in terms of recovery, we're going to touch on that. Recovery after flooding, I'm going to touch on a couple of little things, but it's really developing a management program that's going to be looking at long term health and sustainability of your orchard.

There's a couple of fuzzy words in there that I won't go into definitions of but that's really what we're after.

Okay. In terms of a definition of soil health, I often use that one from Doran, from 2012. And there's a range of indicator tests in there or indicator values that you could be looking at to, to assist in, in making decisions around management. Bulk density and texture, when we look at the physical components of soil. Probably the most limiting two factors that we've got, which are big issues in the Goulburn Valley in respective soil health is compaction and pH, that we're actually not really managing them too well. And I know, you know, at Nic's presentation there, 21 pair infections that probably should have had 42 runs across a paddock with a tractor, it's not going to help under wet conditions. So, We'll get into a little bit more of the presentation shortly about some ideas I have. Very simple.

When I refer to soil health, these are the things we're all familiar with, the biology, physics, and chemistry, and it's actually what we do as agronomists is really the functions that we're after. And again, I'll point the Nic's presentation was very good in respect of looking at function of digesting habitat to remove package and load, right. That's the sort of thing that we need to be looking at the function of nutrient availability, the function of disease reduction. So it's not all about getting a soil test and you know how much nitrogen and phosphorus I need to put out. It's really, can we look at the white space on that test and can it tell us some other things?

Alright, so during a flood we'll get a bit more topical with what we're meant to be here for today. The potential of erosion. A big risk of lots of topsoil, which is carrying nutrient off the property and or organic matter, which is probably the thing that I get most toey about. The deposition of SI and gravel from movement of water. Maybe not so much on this side of the Goulburn Valley, but certainly other side around, towards Benalla. There was a lot of movement of water. Leaching and movement of mobile nutrients. I know you won't be worried about that because you do your regular soil tests, right? Maybe. But there we can be looking at following up now, and probably now is a good time as we start to pack up for the season looking at soil testing and what we might need to top up in the tree currently to get it to look at next year. Then be starting to look at next springs applications of products as we get into that season . Water logging can also raise levels of a couple of elements. So again, your regular soil test, you'll be able to review what you did last year and check those numbers. Denitrification of nitrogen, probably been interesting because once we got drying this year, with the organic matter levels that we do have across this region in our soils, we did get good mineralization when the soil's dried up. So we do have some pretty good looking trees this year. I, in the back of my mind is just being aware of what that might do to trees over the winter period and in the next year. So I'm a little more concerned six months out than I am of what the trees look like this year. But with harvested fruit, we've got fruit coming off that we do tissue testing with on to check nutrient removal. So we'll start to see some issues probably show up compared to our early season fruitlet samples.

Okay slaking of soils, again, a big issue in this region and a lot of work that was done here, if you look back through the archives of DPI Tatura, what it was to me when I grew up in this area and certainly the work of Bruce Cockcroft and others, you know, along quite a period of time ago, is still very relevant to the soils in this region. I just want to just quickly have a look at a couple of soils and what happens, and this is certainly what has happened when we add water to these soils, are the slaking soils that occur in this region. So this is that compaction that's caused by silt and clay particles moving into that surface. And then we are actually getting turbation , it's tractor traffic and wheel rust that still exist out there in the paddocks. We'll touch on that in a couple of minutes also.

So important parts, and again, you're not going to get a measure on this, but should be looking at characteristics that you see and as indicators in your orchard around what's going on, where is nutrient gone, so we can do a test and have a look at that. I'm going to suggest to you that maybe sub soil testing is probably valid in many orchards in this region. We've got some of the sub soil testing that I've done recently is quite similar in some areas to the top soil, but there's a lot of areas that are actually quite constrained for nutrition and physical and biological characteristics. So I'm going to suggest that sub soil observation on occasion is to learn a little bit more about it and maybe make some better decisions. It is probably worthwhile.

Has biology been negatively affected? I would think so with, so certainly the positive guys were outweighed by the number of sick trees that we do see around with certainly phytophthora and pythium presently or certainly maybe a little earlier in the drying phase.

Structure, certainly we think's been affected in traffic and have the trees and crops. And I probably covered off that in a moment ago, some tissue testing and making observations about what's in the fruit when we're removing it and seeing if that corresponds with what was happening last year and whether we should be making some decisions around nutrient applications for that.

Okay. I won't go into the soil tests. I probably started off there. But I think I will make a point and you know, as an agronomist and , with other, many other agronomists in the room, I think, and as farmers that should be asking us the question, what's in the white space on that test? This is some numbers there. And if I've got 10 and I need 20, then I applied 10. But it's actually what's in the white space that's really going to help us make some decisions. So that's a challenge to all of us every day, I think.

I think everybody's seen this, the slide of the teaspoon and the, and in the media of, you know, there's more organisms, there's more organisms in a teaspoon of soil than there are people on the planet. Well, I think we've got to get past that point. And you know, we actually know now the functional groups of organisms that are in there. We actually know how many they are and the things that they do, and we also know a lot more about the interrelationship of organisms that are in the soil.

Alright, so I'm just going to give you an example. This is more commonly available nowadays. A commonly available test called Phospholipid Fatty Acid Analysis. This is a waiting of the numbers that come out of that test, as part of their function in the soil. So this is done by a microbiologist, not me. I just sell the test. But this is a really handy indicator of how your soil is performing. There is no, let me put two you, there is no correlation to the Goulburn Valley orchards here. So you need to do it for a couple of years to get a bit of an idea of how this is working for you.

I think the easiest thing with microbiology right now is it tells you what you have done. It may not tell us enough about what we should be doing in the future around our bugs in the soil, right? So probably indicates really around how our management practices exist. So I'll just give you a bit more detail on that test. So that's the analysis that comes out of that phospholipid fatty acid. PLFA, if you look it up on the web, even Google's on to it nowadays.

Just a note, as I told my daughter as she went through high school. There is a whole lot of information on the web. Some of it's even true

. So this is a phospholipid fatty acid analysis commonly used in research, but not correlated anything that we are doing here on a daily basis, but it can help us in decisions about how we're impacting our soil and our bugs. Okay. I won't go into that because we could be here. There's people doing PhDs on that. So there could be a three week seminar coming up.

I think repairing surface damage, really need to be getting onto that as soon as you possibly can, and I know you've got other things to do, but as a consultant, I can walk in, tell you to fix your ruts in your mid rows and then walk away. I'll see you in three weeks and we'll see if you've done it. Maybe your harvesting fruit and stuff trying to make money, but try to get that done. What we're going to add to that is really trying to get our favourite topic of the moment in agriculture is cover cropping. Crikey. If you're not doing that, you're not in the game, are you? So we're trying to get root systems back, develop in and help us break up that and maintain that aggregation in the soil. Right? So we looked at that earlier slide of slaking. I think cover crops and mid row crops and even back up under the trees, taking Bruce Cockcrofts work from years ago, trying to get root systems much more active and being managed as a part of the cropping system, not just sow them and hope, but you guys wouldn't do that anyway, would you? And a range of plant types that are producing, putting different root systems into that soil profile.

Okay, this one's a bit more hairy. This is researcher was done in 1996 in the United States that come up with this protein called Glomalin. The lab that, that these tests represent in Adelaide is using that glomalin as a surrogate for soil aggregation. So the more glomalin we can produce, which is a metabolite from particularly microrisal fungi, as it dies, leaves that glomalin protein and it represents the aggregation and stickiness of making aggregates hole together in soils. Probably got some probably got some criticism of its validity. So I'll just put that out there. In terms of the test, it's criticism in the research sphere about its validity and there are other tests like that, slaking test been around. Geez, if we all haven't been a session that's had a slake taste and a dispersion test, I'll go heave, but this water stable aggregates is probably an area that we're going to see a lot more of. Just as a handy in-paddock test that you can do and get an idea of how your soil's holding up. Just the same , again, in that white space on your soil test, you should be starting to be able to read soil tests adequately to give you an indication of what that physical nature of that soil should be like and how to make some amendments for it.

. I'll add a couple of things. Trying to get some nutrition out there. So there was research done in New South Wales a few years ago by a guy named Clive Kirkby PhD. For every ton of every 10 ton of subtle to produce one ton of organic matter, right, you need 80 kilograms of actual N , 20 kilos of actual P, 14 kilograms of actual sulphur. You can probably think of some products that you got now that you should be add, adding in with Nic's mix of urea, right? They're the nutrient ratio in humus, and that's what his research was on, validating that if we've got those going out on our stubble, we can get that broken down. Stubble or residue of your prunings, your leaf litter, those sorts of things. Now they've also got some nutrient in them, so you can adjust your nutrient levels to that. Alright, getting some liquid out. As Nick said, use your herbicide, sprayer, put it to use.

Tree health, I think I won't make any outlandish statements about potassium phosphite, but maybe it's something that you could talk to your agronomist about. Keep looking after your trees and try and put something into your tree. Cause I am a little concerned about tree health as we go forward through winter after probably some stress in the spring. So this is an indicator of how you might apply it. I don't know whether staffing numbers have improved around the region, but there may be other ways of application now, but yeah, looking at maybe something like potassium phosphate might be a handy inclusion to have a look at. It's not a written recommendation either, by the way. It's up to you.

If we are going to make those spray applications for nutrition, what we're looking to try and get value out of our organic matter. This is another test where you can look at organic materials in your orchard and what value they might provide around trying to get organic matter back into the soil. Again, I'm not trying to flog you a test, I'm trying to say there are a lot of tests out there that we don't see that might provide value to you. There's another one in this series called Nwise which is the full nitrogen biological nitrogen cycle in soil. It's another very good test.

How can I prepare my orchard for extreme conditions?

Dr Ian Goodwin from Agriculture Victoria, presents information for orchards, with a climate adaption focus.

Transcript: How can I prepare my orchard for extreme conditions. Dr Ian Goodwin - Ag Vic

So I think you, you're all pretty well aware of some of the extreme conditions and their effect on orchard production systems, and on this slide here I've tried to capture what those events actually are and the impact they have on horticultural production. And there's a whole range of things that obviously impact and it's a pretty difficult business to be in when you're faced with so many of these potential events and the impact they can have.

What I'll do for the rest of this talk is try to present some of the management options, adaptation in other words, to these sorts of events. And in other words, trying to reduce their impacts. I'll probably focus more on the last two there about some of the work we've been doing with respect to adaptation for extreme heat events and also the sort of a lot of historical work that we've done here at Tatura on irrigation management when we've got low, obviously low irrigation allocations. In that photo down there on the left is a reminder of that's the Hume Reservoir in 2007, and I think it was at about 7%. And if you remember, the initial allocation was zero, and that I think in 2008, it went up to a maximum 33%. Those severe drought conditions will occur again of course.

So first of all, just some, these are the first series of slides are pretty general. And I thought it was probably good to just remind us of the importance of mounding up rows, mounting up the soil in orchards to get surface drainage. The key is really that surface drainage during high rainfall events. Mounding's going to, not going to stop a flood event where you can't control flood water coming into an orchard, but it definitely is going to improve that surface drainage and prevent water logging from extremely high rainfall events, which did occur obviously last spring. And I've also got a couple of slides up there of the community drainage scheme that's in, in this region that was put in during the a series of obviously wet years in the nineties, and it does serve its purposes as was shown in spring last year. Sure, the outfall from the community drains go into the river and if the river floods then you know, that's a problem because it doesn't have anywhere to go, but it's it can handle some pretty high localized rainfall events to get rid of that water.

Yeah, and I've got up there spinner cuts too. So I remember in the nineties there was a lot of people using laser guided spinner cuts in orchards to get, down the middle of the row, to get rid of water that might be lying around. And I think that's when you have 10 years of drought, those sort of things go a little bit awol and out of favour, and people who are contractors go out of business. But anyway, I better keep moving.

With respect to fruit splitting, I showed on the previous site obviously some cherries, but yeah, things like Crips or Pink Lady cultivars they'll crack as well when we get very high rainfall events. There are really good advances now in rain covers with woven into a netting to give them better support and stopping and flapping around everywhere. And they also have this sort of ventilation system where heat that accumulates from the plastic of course, up the top , can be vented out and as seen on that slide, on the, on your right, the, they're retractable. They're retractable as well.

Hail events. So obviously netting's the key for preventing hail damage. The 22nd of last year, 22nd of December, we had a significant hail event here at Tatura that followed, went on a north northeast direction through Ardmona , then over into Bunbartha and so obviously, hail, obviously the netting is pretty much a secure way of preventing hail damage. But you can see from that slide there that the gable system is a lot more effective at shedding that netting as opposed to the flat type top netting systems that do accumulate hail and can get quite severely damaged from the hail accumulating and sagging and ripping the netting.

I've got on the slide there on the right, in our Agrivoltaics experiment here at Tatura. We did show a reduction in hail damage under the solar panels. It wasn't equivalent to what protection you get from netting, but it did reduce the damage.

Frost events. Frost fans have really probably the most common way of trying to reduce the effect of frost, whether they're portable fans or a, a stationary permanent fixed fan. The idea of them, them, of course, is to mix the warmer air that's below the inversion layer with colder air towards the soil surface. A lot of situations around the world can't use frost fans because it's not irradiation frost. You don't have that inversion layer. But most of our frost, or nearly all of them are irradiation frost so they do work quite effectively. The middle photo there is of micro jet system running, so the aim with any is to try to get the understory managed so that you can absorb enough, a lot of heat during the daytime, a lot of radiation from the sun to heat up the soil. And if that soil's moist, it'll absorb more heat, which can then get reradiated at night. And of course there's a, an image there of Overhead irrigation frost control from the United States. The issue with using overhead irrigation in this part of world is of course it uses water. Now water is a key input that's in short supply. The amount of water that you have to apply, you've got to keep ice you've got to, during a frost, you have to have ice forming on the wood or on the leaves because it's that ice that's forming that maintains the temperature of the tissue just below zero. So it's really critical that the overhead irrigation is kept running during a frost event because otherwise, if you turn it off, the temperature of the tissue will actually plummet. So ice forming from the irrigation is a good thing, but it needs to keep on going. And the last slide over there is a fogging machine. And the fogging is something that I don't know too many people using fogging machines, but the idea is to blanket the orchard with fog and do it in the evening to prevent the loss of heat over the night-time period. So it's not applied in the early hours of the morning, during the if the fog leaves, of course you'd have to reapply it, but the aim is to try to the loss of heat from the soil.

So labour, I put up there, is an issue with respect to heat events. So getting happy workers is probably a key component of any business nowadays. And people have, are a bit allergic to working outside during hot weather. The concept of using platform harvesters for workers to be more comfortable when that picking is means mechanism to overcome that issue. And of course, one day we'll probably have robotic harvesters, although we've still got a way to go, but there's a lot of work going on at the moment with robotic harvesting.

So chilling. So lack of chill because of warm because of warm winters and predictions are that, that's going to continue to be with climate change, is going to be a problem in this region. At the moment, really the only solutions are dormancy braking sprays, and of course, for those dormancy braking spray ,the emphasis is on making sure that they're applied at the right time, which is after the buds have actually accumulated enough chill to break. The, they're really impacting on the, on, on that the accumulation of heat for flowering, that's when the, these dormancy brakings are having an impact. And the idea, of course, is to, so that you get even flowering and you get synchronization with colonizers.

And with respect to sunburn, I'll talk a little bit more about evaporative cooling and netting in the next few slides, but I just showing here the other option for preventing sunburn is spray on protectants, and the white carbonate based, products have gone out of favour mainly because they'll, the residues that they leave on the fruit are difficult to remove. And obviously that's, a consumer is going to object to seeing any white powder on a piece of fruit in the supermarket for obvious reasons.

With respect to evaporative cooling, we did quite a lot of work a few years ago now, but it's still quite relevant where deliberately applying overhead irrigation and overhead watering system to, to cool the fruit, and what we did in those experiments was measure the fruit surface temperature. So this is a thermo-couple up here that's sticking in just under the skin of the fruit to, to measure that temperature of the fruit. And this graph here is showing some data from that fruit surface temperature. And on the figure you've got, there's two lines here. There's a dark brown line and an orange line. They're the two thresholds as to when you'll get sunburn damage. The lower one is sunburn browning, and this one here is sunburn necrosis, the blackening of the fruit. So they're the the fruit skin temperature, in other words, about 46 degrees and 52 degrees, when you'll get the fruit suffer from those sunburn browning and sunburn necrosis. So this blue line here is that the fruit surface temperature without any evaporative cooling, the black line is our air temperature, and the green line, the fruit surface temperature when we're using evaporative cooling. And so you'll note from this, it's, know it's a saw tooth here, and the reason for that is that it's actually being pulsed. So it's about 15 minutes on and 15 minutes off. Or actually, I think it was about 10 minutes on and 15 off, but it was along that sort of timeframe of pulsing the irrigation. You can see that the fruit surface temperatures well and truly, quite low when the irrigation's being applied, the overhead irrigation and obviously the, there's water on the surface of the fruit and it's and the mechanism of course is it's evaporation. The water's being evaporated from the skin and cooling the fruit. So you get this sore tooth, of when it's on, when you know it's obviously dropping and then you turn it off and it goes back up. But it's definitely maintaining the fruit surface temperature well below the, that which causes damage. And of course the reason why we're doing this pulsing was to try to minimize the amount of water that was being applied.

Some other work we've been doing with respect to netting the effects on, again, on fruit surface temperature. So this is our thermocouple sticking in a, a gala. And what we did was in measure fruit surface temperature in a, underneath a netted orchard and then outside the orchard, and then compared those measurements with air temperature. We know those thresholds of 46 degrees or thereabouts for some of them browning and 52 for necrosis. So we related air temperature to the measurements we were taking of fruit surface temperature, and we came up with these. These are air temperatures as to when we were getting sunburn browning or when you would get sunburn browning and when you'd get necrosis. In a non-netted orchard, on average 34 degree air temperature day, we start to see some sunburn browning, some sunburn, browning, and then necrosis was when we get air temperatures about 37.9. Whereas of course, with netting we had to get air temperatures up around this before you'd start getting to those thresholds for browning. And when we did this study, we never got any fruit surface temperatures under the netting that would lead to necrosis. What we did is then of course picked up on some climate change models. To try to look at for different apple grown districts around Australia. And this particular graph is for the number of days of browning risk days.

This is historically in an unnetted and a netted orchard, so you can see that there's, on average six days we're likely to get sunburn browning, on average is this long term average ,historical data. If you're in an netted orchard there be two days, right? And so this is projected based on those climate change models as to what might happen into future climates. So from 2030, 2030 is getting closer and closer, isn't it? Because we did this work back in 2015, so we're more than halfway there. 2050 and 2090 and of course you can see, the dramatic increase in the number of days of browning risks around here, and you'll still get that under netting in terms of browning, sunburn browning into the future.

So the other adaptation is through foliage cover. And you'll see the sundial orchard today, and one of the objectives of that was to see if we could reduce sunburn, and in combination with rootstock.

With respect to irrigation. So as I said, we did a lot of work historically and this is some of the results from both field observations as well as some modelling work. But basically, going from micro jet to drip, you'll get a 20 to 25% saving in irrigation. Classical RDI. This is for stone fruit where you're applying water deficits during this period of rapid shoot growth and slow fruit growth. Again, calculations and observation showed roughly a 20 to 25% water saving, and then post-harvest as well, we did quite a work of looking at the water saving from post-harvest water deficits. I won't go into the detail of those numbers now, and with respect to apples this is something that we wouldn't recommend. If you apply RDI on apples, you will get loss in fruit size and yield. It doesn't have that distinctive growth phases like peaches and even for that matter in pears, and so that's what this figure here is showing that if you start dropping your irrigation below crop water requirement, you'll start to get a reduction in here. Of course, if you go above it, it's just plateaued. But some interesting works been done and, we've never replicated this work, but it was a great study in Israel where they looked at the crop thinning and water deficits. And the bottom line is that, by thinning a crop pretty heavily, you can still get a target fruit size, not matching fruit size, but a target fruit size, where the fruit is still marketable with lower irrigation applications.

And I'll just end on this slide here, which is a new website. We haven't had anything to do with it, but it's been developed by CSIRO and the Bureau of Meteorology and it's Climate Services for Agriculture and it's basically providing in this particular case, I've selected Tatura, and, it's climate in information for apple, and you can click on various projections into the future as well as historical and see what impact future climates, historical, as well as future climates might be having on things like sun damage and winter chill were too that I've picked up on. And this figure here is, this is actually historical data showing temperature data where, you know, days that are, temperature maximum's is exceeding 32 degrees Celsius, you can see this jump up over the last 20 that's more than 20 years, isn't it? It's 20 years from 30 years from there and 30 years previous to that.

But anyway, it's quite an interesting website to have a look at some of the projections for climate data.

What does a future orchard look like?

Dr Mark O'Connell from Agriculture Victoria, discusses what a future orchard looks like.

Transcript: What does a future orchard look like. Dr Mark O'Connell -Ag Vic

"What do future orchards look like?" is being topic for today. So at Tatura SmartFarm, our research and innovation's focused around marketable yield, product value, production efficiency. To do that, we've been focusing on future orchard designs, orchard management practices, which Ian and others have talked about, and post harvest management practices. We do that through experimental orchards, research on commercial orchards and using facilities and ag tech. You'll get to see some of those this afternoon. And you'll see some of these today, invite you out after lunch to the smart farm, there's experimental orchards to answer research questions with co-investment with industry, et cetera. So there's work on pears and stone fruits, agrovoltaics, the sundial orchard, etcetera. We also have higher research degrees, and we've got a couple of those happening at the moment as well. One of those is looking at the sun dial orchard, looking at, as Ian alluded to, row direction and rootstock interactions and how that affects light productivity, quality, sunburn, all these things. And Maddie has commenced her studies on that with apples. Why is all this important? We've done 8 billion, we're heading to 9 billion humanoids on the earth. That means we've got to increase food production by another 50% of where we are now. That brings in issues around food security, water security, food waste. Growers have still got to make a buck. So the return on investment, they've got to be sustainable economically, financially, social licensed to operate. So at Tatura SmartFarm we are bringing in the agronomy, the physiology and the ag tech, as I said, around orchard systems and productivity in stone fruit, pome fruit and almonds.

Precision horticulture, agriculture, you might have heard about. It's some call it the technology for crops. Others call it crops for technology. It's also known as agriculture 4.0. I'd like to highlight too, later in the year where we're hosting the International Symposium on Precision Management of orchards and vineyards. But I'll give you another spiel on that later.

So according to CSIRO the major trends are we need to adapt for climate change. We need to be cleaner, leaner, and greener. We've got human health, we've got geopolitics. Can't do much about that one. Getting into digital autonomy and the human health and dimension stuff. So horticulture I’d argue slots into a lot of those. I just recently seen in, in in Germany, they're advertising specials on the supermarket shelf with greenhouse equivalents, that's CO2 equivalent. There's obviously, there's some accounting and traceability in things happening here in production agriculture. So I'd argue it's time to tackle future orchards. We've heard about rising energy costs, input costs - fertilizers, diesel, the risk of extreme weather. We've just had, we know about covid. Horticulture obviously does have an appetite for AgTech. There are things out there like dwarfing root stocks and things that can help develop and design new future orchards.

There's knowledge, proved knowledge around tree training and canopies, pruning systems. Obviously there's always continual structural adjustment at the regional level. Interestingly, there is an ag tech finder website that hundreds of, for Australia, services and products. So I don't know if many people have seen that through that info, so for your information. So there's a website designed for agriculture and how to find companies and systems and products.

So here at Tatura we've been using sensors, smart sensors to help us measure non-destructively in the orchard before harvest, fruit maturity, fruit sweetness, fruit firmness fruit skin colour, things that are important to this marketable yield.

We've been measuring fruit number on the tree, the Green Atlas photographer and Nic Finger's brought his machine up as well today. You'll see this afternoon. There'll be Ruben's technology tent as well in the sundial.

So we need to bring in things around traceability, climate adaptation. We've heard and we'll see, you'll see this afternoon, agrovoltaics and AgTech sensors and systems. You might have, might not have heard about APIs so there, there's work being done here, looking at the behind the scenes data, exchanging and getting things, talking to one another and behind the app, the smartphone apps and things. Digital twin orchards is another exciting area of work where you've basically got a LiDAR scan, a digital representation of your actual orchard. So we think there's huge potential there with spray efficiencies and improved management practices and knowing exactly how things are in the real world in a digital sense, and then using that to, for agriculture and improve management.

And what I'm going to try and focus on today is where we're heading with pedestrian orchards, this narrow row orchard systems, with the potential new project. And we're planning to do cherry, pear, apple, nectarine, and plum. So what's that about? It's all about a fruiting wall. If you can imagine a fruiting wall of foliage and fruit, and that's aiming to improve the light distribution down that profile of that canopy, and within that canopy. It's all about uniform through quality, high marketable yields. It's changing that ratio of tree height to tree spacing, but even canopy width. So it's a new way of managing those trees, those orchards. Obviously, there's a need, and we've heard about it for millions and others today, we need still have some crops that benefit from climate adaptation. Things like netting and rain covers for cherries for example. I've touched on some of this already. Ag tech, artificial intelligence, machine learning sensors for trees and fruit. We'll have some of those on display this afternoon. Autonomous vehicles, I've, again, I think there's some tractors there today to observe in. Yeah and any system that helps with a more uniform canopy could potentially managed with mechanization, whether that's pruning, slashing and spraying and robotic harvesting in future. The new experimental narrow row pedestrian orchard that we plan to plant here is obviously going to be a demonstration site for stakeholders and growers and students as well, and also as an AgTech demo for equipment sensing.

It brings in that dimension of if everything can be managed at from the ground. You've got, you're removing the need for ladders and platforms and helps with OH&S and worker safety. And then there's the orchard efficiency dimension as well.

Sweet. So there's a whole heap of reasons you'd want to do this fruiting wall. There's agronomic reasons, there's management reasons, and there's this mechanization. As they're listed here, the economic management reasons, the hand pruning and thinning, everything's ground based. The agronomic ones I've alluded to are the light distribution and the improved uniformity, and then the mechanization ones are listed there as well. The pruning, the thinning. More efficiency in terms applications, nutrients or growth regulators or et cetera, et cetera.

So this is what we are thinking. As I said, the five crops, air apple victory and cherry and plums. Narrow row, two meter rows, narrow canopies, 20 centimetre wide canopies, tree height, two meters. Obviously you're going to need dwarfing rootstocks. Cordon system adjusted to each crop. Obviously some crops, the cordon spacing can be closer or further apart. Vertical leaders. Netting where required, rain covers on the cherry and also a potentially a demo block, as you can see for apple.

So we're calling it the "two B, two B two B" orchard, two meters high, two meter spacing, two meter tree spacing. So tree density is no higher than any other high density orchard system we've got now, it's just a narrow row and two meters high. No, no ladders as we said. That's our thinking at the moment with cultivars and crops at the stage. The dwarf rootstock are important and you can get them, but what's the exciting bit we'd argue is trying to bring in the next generation and the ag tech and, and using that to demonstrate how we can manage and improve orchard efficiency and productivity. So there's examples of these little autonomous borrow vehicles that can buzz around and take produce off, off the trees to the back to base, whether that's the packing shed. You've got crop monitoring within the season, the cartographer and other sensor systems. You’ve got, potentially robotics, if you've got a nice fruiting wall there, a system that's amenable to mechanical and robotics.

We'll have this on display this afternoon at the Sundial Orchard. Here's where we have a platform harvester, but what we've done is just recently installed a smart sensing system on one of those picking arms. One of those yeah, arms where we are looking at sensing fruit as it's harvested, looking at the fruit maturity and the fruit quality.

As I said we got an event later in the year, which I'd like to highlight, and there's a website there and you can talk to me and others around that.

Why should I track and capture orchard data?

Roei Yaakobi from TieUp Farming discusses Farm Data Management

Transcript: Why should I track and capture orchard data Roei Yaakobi - TieUp Farming

Hi everyone. Good to see familiar faces. So I was asked to talk about why should I capture data on the farm. So if I would say you shouldn't then just walk off, but the truth is, is that we all already capturing data on the farm today. So I think the right question is how do we capture data on the farm and what are the benefits?

I'm from TieUp farming as was introduced before and we make farms smarter. I'd like to start with a quote that touches on one of the immediate benefits, again, to separate between future benefits to immediate benefits. One of the more challenging dimensions of the farm tech sector has always been the ability to link agronomic activity to farms financials. So the writer goes on and touches on the three main points when it comes to data capturing, which is digital standardization, interoperability, and data quality. Data quality being the most important thing when it comes to data capturing. Some of you might have heard, especially when it's about artificial intelligence and data science, garbage in, garbage out, basically. So if it's quality data, you're going to get quality outputs as well.

So basically today, farms data offers non-standardized and fragmented view of the operation. We all well, I'm sure a lot of you can relate to the fact that we see a lot of cool tech out there available today. The last speaker touched on a lot of them, but still we've got a lot of data that is being done manually, not being captured on a digital one and zeros if you like. And in any case, any sets of data that is being captured is mostly siloed, meaning it sits in its own data sets. So we just sit there and if it's the spray information, you just sit on the spray view. If it's the harvest information, it just sits on the harvest platform, and so on and so forth. So who we are. Farming: we are an E R P system to manage the farm enterprise resource. A more simpler word, farm management software. Streamline workflow, traceability, optimize sustainability of course, and increase profitability are the main value proposition. We integrate, so there's two main aspects of what we do. We integrate other solutions that are more specific on the farm, like irrigation solutions and stuff that were mentioned before. Green Atlas. We spoke in the past as well what Nic is doing. And then we have a proprietary software that is been utilized on the farm and that is mainly to capture that information that I mentioned before. That is more pen and paper and excess purchase. By the way, pen and paper and excess spreadsheets are very similar in the sense of data capturing.

So that enables us to provide a granular profile of the farm Financial with a click of a button, as the season progress. You don't need to wait to get all the data together to collect it from this contractor, from that worker, and so on. It's all there with a click of a button. That touches on the quote I provided before. That is an immediate benefit you can get today.

And we were asked to provide with kind of a case study. So Pollen Sans Farm, utilizing three modules. It's a modular system with what we provide, harvest data, chemical and fertilizer data, and all the agrotechnical jobs. And the benefit as mentioned is as the season goes by having all these financial easily accessible, ensuring they're profitable with today's tight margins. And I'm sure you all can relate to the tight margins of experience. So again, connecting the how I'm capturing the data, we are all capturing data to benefits. These benefits can, you can enjoy from them today. It's not something in the future.

I'm stopping here for a sec. I want to touch on another very important principle. And again, it's enough that I hope you take one thing today from this talk. I'll help you, one data entry point or capturing point if you like, on the farm. So think about capturing data with pen and paper, with various software solution or software that don't talk to each other, or putting it on excess spreadsheets. While having this type of data capturing, basically with that action, for example, scanning the bin, you have traceability because you're also doing the spray on it. So fertilizer, you know, who, what was sprayed on it, who picked it where, when, and so forth. So full traceability. You've got the payroll report, you can pay with it. You've got the real-time management. You can see in real time on the day what was harvest. You can take action immediately. Everything with that one scan, associating the pickers, submit. That's it. And you are already doing it. A lot of you, I guess. All of you, basically, but a lot of the time it's with bin ticket or just writing it down and then transferring it and so on and so forth.

Just to give more basic example of how to capture data, clocking in, clocking out, all the version.

This is a view on how the data has been captured digitally. It's focusing on the spray for a sec. So this is the mobile view, this is the web view. Again, the one data entry point, once you have it and you all, again, you all doing it because you have to, regulations and so on. So, other than the audits, which I should mention before again, the one data entry point, you also can start getting a bit more value with a click of button, you can see a nutrient breakdown. What was used on a specific block, what was used on a variety, you can put the filter on, and a date range and so on and so forth. Same with product type. What products have I used?

I want to give more examples of that capturing on the farm. So Supplant is a plant sensing company basically with soil sensors, dendrometers and the like, fruit size sensors, they are providing a farm view of each block and the plant stress. How the actual plant is reacting to your actions in real time. It's an extremely powerful tool. A lot of you, like I hope a lot of you are familiar with this, but this is another type of more agronomical focus, another type of data capturing.

Another company, a robotics which is a drone imagery company, they now have tool, which some growers use it here in the valley for fruit Calliper, fruit size, and next season, no promises, but coming next season, they're going to be fruit fruit size, fruit load, taking a picture of the bin, taking a picture of the tree with a click of button. You've got everything you need. So again, another type of data sets. Everything can come into the one picture, into the one place, with APIs as were mentioned before and so forth. I should mention for a sec, for example, we just did recently for one of our customers here, a connection between tie to the packing shed, so data flows all the harvest, all the beans, go straight into the packing shed. For more information, speak with Andrew here from Pomona.

So final notes. Microsoft and buyer partnership. So they just announced that Microsoft, with their expertise in cloud services with Azure platform, and Bayer with obviously the crop protection expertise, during this collaboration, which is quite interesting. It's not sure yet what's the practicality of it, but they, again, they just announced it. What it'll probably mean is that for large agribusinesses, they'll have better infrastructure to tap into and technology companies to base their technology on, I guess like, and utilize specialty sets of data and to take it from there, so to speak.

Simplicity. Simplicity is key, but there's few principles, and thing I guess I can mention, but if there is one major thing is the simplicity of the tool. So there's complicated stuff like farm management as a whole with what we do. And there is easier stuff which are more you can just, I guess put it on the farm and it sends it and you view the data and then you take action. But when you look at how to capture data and the whole mechanism, which is I'm mentioning in a third point, try to think, is this simple enough? The other point which relates to the data collection mechanism, support. So when you decide on how you want to collect the data on the farm, what is necessary for the a agribusiness, which tools you want to provide and put them together potentially as well, is what is the support that I've been given? Because nothing going to be easy at the beginning. Everything going to be like, oh, it's new, so you need to get used to it. Just examine the simplicity and the support and long term view, just think about what happened if you've got all this information, chuck it into an algorithm and it gives you your yield forecast, and every action that you take, every action you mode along, it tells you how it affects your yield. So probably most of you aware of the ChatGPT was released by a company called OpenAI recently. They just released ChatGPT-4. GPT-4 can recognize each insect with a click of a button. It was trailed already last week, confirmed. So that going to be available on platforms like TieUp Farming for example, and every agronomy agronomist is going to become a super agronomist, just like that in the next year. Every insect it recognize, it's crazy, and with a click of button, it advises you what to, what to, you know, to use against that insect.

So think about that, which is available, I guess you can say today. And what can be done with yield forecasting, which is the holy grail for all of us.

Last point to think about is when you collect data, you can sell your business easy as well. That's uh, another point to think about.

Agriculture 4.0: December 2023

Horticulture Field Day Acknowledgement

The PIPS3 Program is funded by Hort Innovation using the apple and pear research and development levy, contributions from the Australian Government and co-investment from Agriculture Victoria and the Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture. Hort Innovation is the grower-owned, not-for-profit research and development corporation for Australian horticulture.

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