Mariah Maughan, VEGETABLE INDUSTRY DEVELOPMENT OFFICER, NT FARMERS
VegNET 3.0 is a 5-year national extension program led by AUSVEG, with the aim to boost productivity and deliver the latest research and development on-farm.
There are VegNET officers in every state with the NT VegNET officer being myself, Mariah Maughan, sitting under NT Farmers. Over the next 5 years, field trails, case studies, workshops and one on one support will be delivered across Australia with a focus on local industry needs in each state.
This season has been a productive one for the project, seeing a lot of the initial planning and preparation come to fruition. The season started off with grower meetings in two regions of the top end. These had a focus of building relationships between growers and industry providers as well as providing an opportunity to provide project updates and gain valuable insights and feedback from the growers.
From here the focus went to producing and delivering the 2022 Integrated Pest Management (IPM) field trial in partnership with the Department of Industry Tourism and Trade (DITT). This trial showcased two plots which grew common industry vegetables, one plot had conventional pest control methods and the other used IPM techniques. The trial was monitored by DITT Entomologists, and the findings were presented at two industry field walks and a case study published in the previous GROW magazine. The trial was also used to host two school excursions as an introduction to horticulture and pest management for students.
Soil Health is another focus area for the VegNET3.0 project. In June this year, we helped facilitate a field walk at a soil health demonstration site in Katherine alongside Soil Wealth ICP. The field walk showcased a sight where a grower implemented practices to improve his soil health over a one-year period. The event was a great opportunity for other growers and industry people to see how certain management practices have significantly improved the grower’s soils in a reasonably short time and the follow-on benefits he has encountered.
The project has also gained considerable ground in the water efficiency space work alongside my NT Farmers Colleague – Di Renfree and her Water Productivity, Efficiency and Sustainability project with moisture probe sites going in on several farms. We look forward to seeing what data we get by the end on the season and into the next season.
In the field of biosecurity, we had a representative from AUSVEG visiting in September to engage with industry regarding American Serpentine Leafminer. A workshop tailored to agronomists and
industry was run in Darwin and in Kununurra with speakers from AUSVEG, DITT and the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries Queensland.
As the season wraps up it is also an ideal time to work on finalising extension material that has come from the IPM field trial findings. We look forward to providing pest wheel charts that showcase what pest’s commonly impact certain vegetable and different stages of growth and what beneficials can help manage the pests. These wheel charts will be a tool to use alongside the Northern Territory Governments Field Guide, to Pests, Beneficials, Diseases and Disorders of Vegetables in northern Australia.
Looking to 2023, we can predict a jam-packed season for the project with particular focus on hydroponic systems. VegNET 3.0 also hopes to have a soil health trial in the Darwin region where the impacts of on rows of Asian vegetables is monitored. In the meantime, I look forward to wrapping up the busy year and working towards another successful year in 2023.