Applethorpe research station bears fruit for farmers

Vital research at the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (DAF) Applethorpe Research Facility is helping Queensland farmers produce more attractive, flavoursome and robust strawberries.

Visiting the facility today, Minister for Agricultural Industry Development Mark Furner said the Queensland Government’s Australian Strawberry Breeding Program was targeting our three major strawberry production regions – temperate, subtropical and Mediterranean – to get the best fruit.

“Breeding trials at Applethorpe during 2018 have developed two new varieties, Summer Song and Scarlet-silk, which are being trialled this season by strawberry producers in Queensland, Victoria, Tasmania, South Australia and Western Australia,” Mr Furner said.

“In addition, our strawberry breeding team has just commenced a new five-year $8.6 million dollar National Strawberry Varietal Development Program, co-funded by Hort Innovation, to deliver new and improved varieties to all production regions in Queensland.”

More broadly, Queensland’s $3 billion fruit and vegetable production industry had benefitted from research into a range of issues.

“DAF researchers are involved in important projects to support and enhance Queensland’s well-earned reputation for producing some of the world’s safest produce,” Mr Furner said.

“The Applethorpe Research Facility is the hub of research activity for a $16.6 million five-year project to improve the resilience of crops against viral and bacterial diseases.

“This will see the development of an area wide management strategy to address high priority viral and bacterial diseases affecting vegetable crops.

“Project work is undertaken in all major Queensland vegetable production areas, including Applethorpe, and will give industry the latest recommendations on disease occurrence and management.”

Mr Furner said Applethorpe was also renowned for the development of the disease-resistant Kalei apple.

“The Kalei is currently being commercialised by Apple and Pear Australia Limited (APAL), the same company looking after Pink Lady on a global scale,” he said.

“We are still evaluating other promising disease resistant lines from this initial breeding program which commenced 25 years ago.

“The department is also working on high density growing systems including trellises, researching rootstocks, plant densities, row spacing and crop load management to maximise yields. The trials show the potential of producing 100t/ha where industry common practice has only resulted in half that amount.”

Mr Furner said work for the Murray Darling Basin Regional Economic Diversification Program (MDB REDP) was coordinated from the Applethorpe Research Facility.

“The MDB REDP project has already overseen significant work to evaluate the soils, climate and available water across much of Queensland’s MDB area to establish the potential production areas for annual vegetables, perennial fruits, nuts and alternative varieties of horticultural produce,” he said.

“New work in this project will look to establish further development of new high value horticulture value chains in the QMDB.

“Other work at Applethorpe has focused on the improved management of charcoal rot in strawberries, and the development of a new variety of table grapes.

“DAF staff at Applethorpe have also supported and enabled the formation of a Granite Belt Growers Group whose first annual general meeting will be held on 29 November 2018.”

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