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Published: 4 Nov 2022

A group of people stand in a field listening to a talk during a fam tour.

With a theme of innovation and sustainability, this year’s Vegetable Research Facility Field Day at Forthside will provide an opportunity to learn more about on-farm initiatives and research projects.

Delivered by the Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture (TIA), the Field Day is a key annual event to connect growers and industry in horticulture and vegetables.

This year’s program features talks and tours from TIA’s leading researchers and industry representatives, split into separate sessions on sustainability and innovation in the morning, followed by panel discussions, then farm tours after lunch.

“We recognise this is a challenging time for growers, with heavy rainfalls causing delays to planting schedules,” said Nigel Swarts, Leader of TIA’s Horticulture Centre.

“In an effort to help accommodate our industry partners, we have created a program that is grouped into bite-sized sessions, so, people can drop in and out whenever it suits. They can come for an hour or stay for the day.”

In the sustainability session, TIA’s seed certification officers Ann-Maree Donoghue and Kathryn Goulding will present on the Tasmanian Certified Seed Potato Scheme, while Professor Calum Wilson will discuss potato research including a new project funded by the Tasmanian Government’s Agricultural Development Fund. TIA PhD candidate Theresa Chapman will share the research so far on her project investigating the effects of cover crop diversity on soil ecological functioning.

The innovation session will feature presentations from TIA researcher Harriet Walker and her project using sea urchin waste as a fertiliser; the latest on the Chinese medicinal herb trials being undertaken at Forthside, and a panel discussion featuring Forthside farmer Mike Badcock, Ellie Hope from Simplot, and Forthside’s Farm Manager Doug Clark, who will expand on the on-farm tech being used on the farm.

The Smart Farm upgrades to Forthside have been a game changer for Doug and the team, who now have a full dashboard both at the farm and on their phones to monitor and manage water and irrigation requirements,” Dr Swarts said.

“This off-the-shelf system has increased efficiency in both water use and time management and allows for much more informed decision making in contrast to having to download data … or view the tensiometers before a decision can be made.”

The research farm has had a long history of engagement with growers and industry partners as it was the primary place for learning about vegetable cropping, Dr Swarts said, with the farm facilitating demonstrations of the latest breakthroughs in pea and carrot research, and techniques for potato and onion growing.

“The Field Day has seen this information transfer to grow to include service providers, agronomists, Landcare groups as well as a large grower group,” Dr Swarts said.

“It is a great opportunity for the TIA Horticulture team to showcase innovation and approaches to sustainability that are relevant and manageable for industry.”

The Forthside Field Day is a free event, with a coffee van, morning tea and lunch all provided. Register here.

Source: This article was published in Tasmanian Country Newspaper on 4 November 2022