Home' Grower : September 2012 Contents The South Australian Grower -- September 2012
Plea to younger
By LECHELLE EARL
Communications and events manager
SUCCESSION planning and long-term sustainability
have become a major focus of horticulture industries
worldwide -- and Onions Australia is no different.
Given our ageing population, it appears that younger
people are extremely reluctant to step-up to the plate
when it comes to volunteering their time. It is
understandable in these busy days that people find
themselves stretched between work and family, but
when these intertwine -- as often occurs on the
family farm -- then it becomes imperative that some
sacrifices are made to ensure the longevity of the
At OA, we have a dedicated executive committee
who are committed to furthering the future of our
industry. But succession planning is always at the
forefront of our minds.
Many of our executive members are not first --
generation farmers -- they have followed their parents
onto the farm and now sit atop onion enterprises
which span a number of generations.
It is the younger people we hope will takeover and
join the OA executive, which is well-known for its
forward-thinking and progressive ideas.
One of the key players on the OA executive is long-
term onion advocate Steve Rathjen, from South
Australia. He recently received the prestigious Reg
Miller Award, and is a fifth-generation farmer, whose
operation -- Delta Produce -- has been producing
onions in the Murray Bridge and Bordertown regions
for many years. He was a founding member of the OA
executive and served as the organisation's vice-
president from 2004-06, before taking the helm as
president from 2006-08.
During his time as chairperson, Steve presided over
the onion industry strategic plan development and
later was a key participant in the OA biosecurity plan.
He was also appointed OA representative to Plant
Health Australia and has been an onion industry
advisory committee member for SA since 2008.
Steve was involved in setting up the onion research
and development levy from 1999 to 2002, and
remains a participant in the review process.
He has also been a participant in the Onion Mallee
Stunt research and development project, including
hosting field trials, which have often involved a lot of
work for growers.
Another SA grower, Daniel Mead, from Ciampa
Produce, is one of the younger members of the
executive, juggling his commitments to a young
family and his farm. He has realised the importance
of sitting on the executive to ensure the future of the
industry. We need more younger people like Daniel to
ensure industry management succession plans are in
The New Zealand Environmental Protection Authority
recently approved Pipfruit NZ's application to use the wasp
Mastrus ridens as a biological control for codling moth.
Mastrus ridens is a small wasp-like insect which is
attracted to and kills the late larval life-stage of codling
moth. Pipfruit NZ technical manager Mike Butcher says
extensive testing of the wasp, which has been held in
quarantine in Auckland since 2009, shows it is an effective
and safe way to control codling moth. The wasp lays its
eggs on the overwintering larvae of the codling moth and its
young, feeding on them when they hatch. DPI Victoria has
lodged an application to Australian Authorities to release the
mastrus wasp from the Frankston Quarantine facilities into
the Codling Moth rearing facility at Tatura in the Goulburn
Valley. The rearing facility will enable sufficient quantities of
the wasp to be bred before they are needed.
Get to grips with clubroot
IWAS scrounging around on my desk
recently looking for an idea for this col-
umn when I had a phone call from my
old friend Rod Karger.
I have worked with him on many proj-
ects successfully, both of us sharing a few
basic ideas on what is required to grow
good crops: effective soil management,
water and designed nutritional ameliorants
Rod retired from PIRSA two years ago
and is now doing some private research
and consulting work in South Australia.
He invited me to have a look at some
ver y exciting results he is getting in the
production of crops in areas infected with
This is caused by the pathogen
Plasmodiophora brassicae. It affects plants
of the brassica family, including cauli-
flower, chinese cabbage, broccoli, cab-
bage, turnips and brussels sprouts.
The plants produce large, distorted roots
and wilting is often the first symptom
noticed. The galling on the roots may not
be obvious until the infected plants are
removed from the ground.
Plants which are severely infected will be
stunted, produce poor quality crops and
may die before har vest.
Clubroot spores can potentially persist in
soil and water for up to 20 years even in
the absence of host plants.
Brassica weeds, such as wild radish and
wild turnip, can be a host for the clubroot
pathogen, increasing inoculum levels in
the paddock even in the absence of suscep-
tible crops -- Rachel Lancaster Research
Officer Bunbury WA
Most of Rod's experience with clubroot
has been with broccoli and chinese cab-
bage. It could also become a major prob-
lem in broadacre crops, such as canola.
A lot of work has been done around the
world on clubroot, with little success.
Scientists have looked at things such as
crop rotations, farm hygiene, soil PH and
liming, calcium and boron applications,
development of crop tolerance and, of
course, chemicals -- we still have an ever-
increasing presence of clubroot.
I went out and spent a day in the field
with Rod discussing his philosophies and
talking to farmers.
There is no doubt in my mind that Rod
has been heading down the right track and
the farmers' testimonials relating to his
success are hard to ignore. His approach
to overcoming the clubroot problem is
systematic and site-specific and, some-
times, it is unbelievably simplistic.
Obviously, I am not in a position to
openly discuss his points at this stage but
his success is certainly based on our origi-
nal philosophies that I mentioned at the
start of the column.
We visited the Newman family at
Gumeracha. They were having an increas-
ing problem with clubroot in broccoli.
Rod worked with them on one of their
blocks and, at this stage, there is every
indication that the crop will mature dis-
I think Steven and his father John are
more than a little excited that there may
be some light on the horizon.
During our discussions, we all agreed
that the only way to sur vive in horticulture
is to improve.
Unfortunately, technology has not
moved as fast as required.
I was very impressed with the Newman
Their garden beds -- in most cases -- r un
down the hills from top to bottom.
They initially had erosion problems, but
have since changed their bed manage-
All the beds are tilled with light-ripping
equipment and rotary hoes are banned.
Crops are rotated using cauliflower or
broccoli, lettuce and leeks. This gives
some control of diseases, such as clubroot,
and certainly assists in the development of
good soil structure.
At this stage, you may think I have taken
on the job as sales manager for Rod
That couldn't be further from the truth.
I have great faith in Rod's ability to look
outside the square and develop straight-
for ward and practical approaches to what
appear to be unsolvable problems.
Now he is semi-retired (that means we
work harder and get paid less), Rod would
like to re-establish his contacts and touch
base with brassicae growers who have clu-
broot problems. If you are interested in
working with him as a group, you can
contact him on 08 8386 0141, 0469 874
975 or email@example.com
You can always get me on 0419 591 894 or
with WALLY SPARROW
John Newman, Rod Karger and Steven Newman in Newman's packing shed.
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