Meeting of the horticultural minds of Central Australia

Some of the Horticultural Producers of Central Australia at the AZRI asparagus block

Some of the Horticultural Producers of Central Australia at the AZRI asparagus block

On Wednesday 20th April horticultural producers from Central Australia met at the Arid Zone Research Institute to get an update on the Central Australian Horticultural Development project..

Project leader, Stuart Smith gave an overview of the horticultural development project and what it wants to achieve, in summary, step-wise development of new horticulture in distinct precincts through Central Australia where there is adequate soil, water, infrastructure and management expertise.

The activities underway so far in the project include

  • Grapes – 258 vines of 15 new selections and 3 industry standards have been planted at AZRI on Ramsay and Freedom rootstocks. These are red and white cultivars that could extend the season and reduce bunch shatter.
  • Recycled water – from Alice Springs is piped to AZRI for the Soil Aquifer Treatment (SAT) Ponds, some has been diverted to a Lucerne project, where the effect of the recycled water on the soil will be quantified.
  • Garlic: 5 tropical and sub-tropical cultivars, from Queensland and France have been planted this year on AZRI in a small trial
  • Dates: Entomology is doing an Actara efficacy trial for Parlatoria Scale, and the pollination trial on the dates is complete.
  • Climatic analysis: Sarah Tsai gave an overview of the work done with the bureau of Meteorology to quantify chill portions, frostiness and evapotranspiration in Central Australia. There was some discussion about setting up local weather monitoring stations on farm.
  • Mangoes – new National Mango Breeding Program cultivars are being propagated in Darwin for trial plantings at Ali Curung.
  • Brochure / investment prospectus: is being prepared by DPIF in conjunction with DLRM to highlight opportunities for horticultural investment in Central Australian precincts.
  • Bush tomatoes – are being evaluated in conjunction with Dr Slade Lee from Southern Cross University.

Bob Williams gave an overview on the progress of the Cooperative Research Centre for Developing Northern Australia. It is still going ahead and the submissions have been received, and some work should commence in the new financial year. Before that, however, they have to set up their governance structure which they are now in the process of doing. There will be agricultural programs relevant to Central Australia but the specifics are not yet finalised.

Sarah Fairhead, Regional Manager of the Department of Land Resource Management gave an update on what is happening with soil surveys and water planning. Soil surveys have commenced in Ti Tree, Tennant Creek and Ali Curung, and gradually move south. Water allocation planning is still continuing for Western Davenport, and Ti Tree has expired. More investigations will commence at Rocky Hill to determine the science around possible effects of horticultural operations on Town water supply.

Last updated: 19 September 2019

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