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Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture

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Project name Improved productivity and profitability for the Australian apple and pear industry
Funding bodies Hort Innovation
Chief Investigators Dr Nigel Swarts
Contributors Plant and Food Research, New Zealand

An innovative Tasmanian trial is aiming to predict the nutrient and water requirements of apple trees to help industry maximise their productivity.

The trial is being conducted by the Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture (TIA) as part of a four-year research project, funded by Hort Innovation using the Apple and Pear levy and funds from the Australian Government.

TIA Research Fellow Dr Nigel Swarts is leading the team researching the seasonal use of nitrogen and water for apple tree growth. He said research into optimising nitrogen-use efficiency has the potential to boost productivity in apple growing.

“Growers are keen to efficiently use their nutrients – not only to improve their productivity and yield – but also to support positive environmental outcomes,” Dr Swarts said.

The trial involves looking at when and how the tree uses applied nitrogen. Applied nitrogen is detectable via a nitrogen tracer and it is the first time in Australia that this technology has been used in apple orchards.

Dr Swarts said the research involved two main components, including field work and the development of a model by New Zealand collaborators Plant and Food Research. The model will be used to produce an online tool (known as SINATA) that will inform strategic management of irrigation and nitrogen resources for targeted apple tree productivity in a season.

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