Exchange program proves fruitful for Top End farmers

An Australia-India Council grant to explore innovative economic opportunities through sharing sustainable farming systems under an exchange program has proven to be fruitful for Territory farmers.

In December 2019 a delegation of nine Territory producers of rice, vegetable, fruit and fodder, boarded a flight to India, the fourth largest agricultural producer in the world.

Over 10 days the group toured the sub-continent’s Punjab region, known as the “food bowl” of India.

The group visited tropical vegetable, horticulture, and floriculture farms to see organic farming practices that increase soil organic matter and improve water use efficiency. The delegation learnt about practices Indian farmers are implementing such as understorey planting, row cropping and recycling cattle waste through custom-made digesters (which is then added to irrigation water).

Dr Kamaljit Sangha, the project leader from the Research Institute for the Environment and Livelihoods at Charles Darwin University, said that visiting some of the farms practising sustainable practices with little or zero external inputs in the Punjab region was an “eye-opener”.

It would be almost three years before the Indian delegation was able to travel to Australia for the second part of the exchange program, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

After much anticipation, 6 Punjab farmers arrived in Australia on September 23 for a 10-day tour of farms in the Northern Territory and Queensland. The delegation consisted of wheat, rice, potato, mint, citrus and dairy farmers. The visiting farmers were taken to farms in the Northern Territory and north Queensland, and NT Government’s DITT research stations. The visiting farmers gained a first hand insight of, mango,  papaya and coffee farms and cattle stations and dairy farms. The Indian team was impressed with the progress industry and NT Farmers have been making to improve water efficiency. NT Farmers showcased their water efficiency project which utilises soil moisture probes and other technology to reduce water consumption by farmers.

Dr Sangha said, “the success of this AIC-DFAT funded program is a result of true collaborative efforts among the NTFA, FNQ Growers, DITT, CDU in Australia, and Punjab Agriculture University and Central University in Punjab, India. The benefits of this kind of program are much more than just learning about sustainable farming techniques which include enhancing cultural, social and economic understanding on both sides. We hope to develop a broader program for the next year, including north Queensland.”

 NT Farmers will continue to work closely with all farmers in the region to enhance production and economic outcomes through agriculture.  

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