Home' Grower : October 2010 Contents The South Australian Grower -- October 2010
Evidence vital to crop
Stories by ASHLEY WALMSLEY
HOW do you know what is
the right chemical to apply
to that particular crop?
A Charles Sturt University aca-
demic believes many mistakes
seen when applying unproven
products and methods on mod-
ern Australian farms could have
been avoided by asking a simple
question: "so how do you know
As an agronomy researcher
with the EH Graham Centre for
Agricultural Innovation based in
Wagga Wagga, southern New
South Wales, Jim Virgona
believes evidence -- not hearsay --
should be the basis for decision
making on Australian farms.
Addressing the recent annual
conference of the NSW
Grassland Society in Dubbo,
New South Wales, Dr Virgona
said at times "evidence is either
not present or inadequate for
some agricultural products or
methods, or evidence is simply
"Risk is everywhere in agricul-
ture, and any way we can reduce
risk must be used in farming
decisions," he said.
"If you have doubts about the
claims being made about a
product or new idea, then
always be prepared to ask 'how
do you know that?' If the
answer does not include some
reference to demonstrable evi-
dence, then walk away."
Dr Virgona has many examples
of problems that have occurred
when farmers do not use evi-
dence in their decision making.
"Classic examples are the use
of so-called 'natural fertilisers' to
increase crop yields and the
application of the 'Albrecht' sys-
tem in decision making about
fertilisers," he said.
"Both examples have been sci-
entifically disproved, yet some
farmers continue to waste
money on them.
"Even the use of seasonal fore-
casts from the Bureau of
Meteorology have been shown
to be effectively useless."
Working with Growth Farms
Australia director, Mr Geoff
Daniel, Dr Virgona highlighted
four criteria to help integrate
evidence in the decision-mak-
They said farmers should ask
if it is:
• Plausible: Does the idea
have any scientific merit?
Are the product claims con-
sistent with other verifiable
knowledge obtained from
• Verifiable: Is the argument
leading to the claims able to
be backed up by current
knowledge based upon well
designed and repeatable
experiments, sur veys or
other scientifically accept-
• Applicable: Is the new tech-
nology considered in the
context of the farming sys-
tem and have any flow-on
effects been considered in
the application of the tech-
nology on other parts of the
• Economical: Is the product,
if shown to be likely to be
effective, the cheapest alter-
native to obtain that
response, and does it have a
positive cost benefit?
Veg output falls as imports grow
VEGETABLE production isn't what it
used to be, according to Ausveg.
Vegetable production data released in
August shows a worrying 5.9 per cent
decrease in production in 2008/09
against the previous year.
According to Ausveg spokesperson
Andrew White, the decrease in
vegetable production is a product of
the pressure many growers are
experiencing as Australia chooses to
increase imports from our international
competitors, who are now dramatically
increasing their market share.
"Australian growers are essentially
being squeezed out by these
international suppliers that have lower
input costs and lower wages, but
which produce products that are
generally of a lower quality and
freshness, and consumers should be
concerned," he said.
"It's important to recognise that we
can't guarantee that the same quality
assurance procedures are being
applied overseas as exist in Australia.
"It's vital that consumers continue to
support Australian growers and our
local rural economies, particularly
given the currently very affordable
retail vegetable prices which are
offering consumers some real bargain
According to data obtained from the
Australian Bureau of Statistics through
industry data economic analysis, the
biggest declines in production in
2008/09 were for capsicum, chillies
and peppers, which were down by
16.7pc, potatoes were 15.8pc lower,
and watermelons which were 13.8pc
lower than the year before. The drop
comes as consumers experienced
what growers have suggested were the
lowest retail vegetable prices for the
winter period in more than five years. On
a positive note, Mr White said that many
growers were currently benefitting from
a high turnover in vegetable volumes by
the major retailers.
"A higher turnover of vegetables at
reasonable prices is currently resulting
in steadier and more sustainable
returns for growers and better buying
opportunities for consumers," he said.
"It's really a win-win situation for
both growers and consumers."
Continuing the trend of recent years,
the area planted for vegetables fell by
around 4pc in 2008/09.
Showing that consumers still favour
what might be termed the mainstream
vegetable types, the top 10 vegetables
planted accounted for more than 70pc
of the total area planted.
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