The five -year program’s aim is to accelerate the commercial implementation of best management practices that have the greatest potential for apple and pear growers to reap economic benefits while remaining sustainable.
Delivered through Hort Innovation, the program is a collaborative effort led by the Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture (TIA) and Agriculture Victoria, in partnership with the Department Primary Industries and Rural Development (WA) and NSW Department of Primary Industries.
Hort Innovation chief executive officer Brett Fifield said the latest program will be known as ‘PIPS 4 Profit’ to highlight that the research underway is focused on profitability for growers.
“It is all in the name,” Mr Fifield said. “This program is all about strengthening orchard profitability and ensuring the long-term sustainability of the apple and pear industry.
“This program has built a wealth of knowledge about management systems, soils, nutrients, water, integrates pest and disease management, and technology. Now we will fast-track this knowledge and understanding into commercial implementation within the orchard.”
Now in its fourth iteration, the original Productivity, Irrigation, Pests and Soils (PIPS) program began in 2009 to lift the productivity and quality of Australian apple and pear production. Since 2009, PIPS investments have driven knowledge of irrigation, nutrient, crop load and pest management.
TIA senior research fellow Nigel Swarts said a profitability lens will be applied to all activities.
“The new program has a focus on determining what knowledge and technology have the greatest potential for profit and economic benefit to the grower,” Dr Swarts said.
“We will be building businesses cases on why and how growers can benefit from transitioning towards certain management approaches.”
The program includes an extensive network of farm trials and demonstration sites on growers’ properties.
Participating apple and pear grower Scott Price from Tasmania said the program has already shown value and they are excited about future possibilities.
“I am pleased to see the latest PIPS program take such a focus on implementing research on farm to improve our bottom line and ensure our businesses are viable long-term,” Mr Price said.
Delivered through five sub-projects, the key research areas of the PIPS 4 Profit program are:
- Optimising apple and pear production systems by investigating profitable crop load management strategies that maximise quality, providing data on sustainability credentials and increasing labour use efficiency.
- Managing pest and diseases through combining knowledge on of entomology, plant pathology, genetics, ecology, technology, extension, and risk management.
- Building sustainable soils by developing new knowledge linking orchard management practice with soil health and evaluate the economic impact of potential changes to orchard soil management on overall orchard profitability.