The Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture (TIA) has attracted just over $1.1 million in federal research funding that will support research in the key industries of dairy, cherry production and viticulture.
TIA is a major partner on three projects funded by the Australian Government Department of Agriculture and Water Resources as part of its Rural Research and Development for Profit program.
TIA Deputy Director Associate Professor Dugald Close says the funding is a result of strong organisational performance, strategic partnerships and a truly collaborative approach to research.
“Through these projects we are working closely with a number of key organisations and this approach really strengthens the research and the outcomes that can be achieved,” Associate Professor Close said.
“We undertake research that has real-life outcomes and impacts for Tasmanian producers.
“All of these projects take an innovative approach that will contribute to important advances for the agricultural sector.”
The cherry and dairy projects form part of a bigger four-year study led by the Cotton Research and Development Corporation to improve nitrogen use efficiency across cotton, dairy, sugar and tree crop horticulture industries.
TIA’s Dr Nigel Swarts is leading a project that will optimise nitrogen use for improved productivity and fruit quality in cherries.
The project will take a holistic approach, looking at the entire nitrogen cycle to grow the understanding of the processes and interactions of soil, climate, irrigation, nitrogen and the plant system.
“Through this understanding, we will be able to help growers produce high-quality cherry fruit with the most efficient use of nitrogen,” Dr Swarts said.
Dr Swarts will test and develop best-practice nitrogen use management strategies that are cost effective, practical and reduce the impact of nitrogen on the environment.
TIA Dairy Centre Leader Dr Richard Rawnsley is leading a project, in collaboration with the University of Melbourne that will use system modelling to determine recommendations for nitrogen best practice on dairy farms.
Improvement in nitrogen-use efficiency will help the dairy industry increase home-grown forage consumption, reduce total feed cost and achieve a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.
Nitrogen use on Australian dairy farms has increased rapidly over the past 20 years and represents a significant input cost to Australian dairy farms.
Increasing nitrogen use efficiency will achieve improvements in both farm profitability and environmental outcomes.
Dr Rawnsley says the project, which is also supported by funding from Dairy Australia, will build on previous research by taking a whole farm system modelling approach.
“At the whole of farm level the project will quantify the rate and timing of nitrogen supply and examine key factors influencing nitrogen use efficiency in dairy systems,” Dr Rawnsley said.
“This information will lead to the adoption of enhanced nitrogen management practice and improvement in nitrogen use efficiency, resulting in significant environmental benefits including improved soil health, reduced nitrate leaching and decreasing greenhouse gas emissions”.
TIA’s Dr Joanna Jones is leading a project that is part of a larger collaborative project led by Wine Australia, the Cotton Research and Development Corporation and Horticulture Innovation Australia on digital technologies for dynamic management of disease, stress and yield.
The project will test near-infra-red light technology to measure vine bud fruitfulness – that is, how many bunches of fruit each bud will produce.
Currently dormant buds have to be dissected under a microscope to estimate this.
Dr Jones’ goal is to develop a hand-held tool that will save time, be more accurate, reduce unnecessary bunch removal during pruning and produce more consistent yields, the latter being a key challenge to cool climate production of our ultra-premium wines.
The project was initially going to run as an on- year proof of concept, but with this funding will now run for four years.
TIA is a joint venture between the Tasmanian Government and the University of Tasmania.