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Innovation in horticulture with a 2070 lens

Cover cropping Image: Hort Innovation

The future of innovation in horticulture is bright and will underpin the production of produce that is good for Australia and the world. 

Hort Innovation’s Head of R&D Byron de Kock said, “We strive for balance across our Research, Development and Extension program that represents more than $400 million of investment. At one end of the spectrum, we strive to transform and revolutionise through initiatives in biotechnology and robotics. At the other end, we seek to protect current production through biosecurity, crop protection, pest and disease control investments.”

Byron’s role sees him inspiring and nurturing a talented team of research and development managers to transform the horticulture industry across a range of portfolios. These include crop production and biosecurity through to human health and nutrition. 

Research and Development 

Hort Innovation’s research and development projects lead to application on farms and their mantra is “will this project deliver outcomes for growers?”.

Hort Innovation has many breeding programs. The Strawberry Breeding Program has led to development of varieties such as white strawberries, which we will soon see on-farm and on our supermarket shelves. The Macadamia Breeding Program is working to produce new cultivars that will provide the industry an advantage over international competitors.

Cover cropping research on the benefits of using cover crops for soil health and diseases control is an innovation and is already being applied on-farm. 

Grower, Darren Long, from MG Farms commented, “The advancements in cover cropping have been the most advanced single change to farming that I’ve seen for 30 years. It’s an absolute game-changer.” 

Byron said, “The integration of cover crops into vegetable production can improve soil health by building soil structure and condition, reducing erosion, adding nitrogen, improving nutrient recycling, and contributing to weed and soil-borne disease control.”

One of Hort Innovation’s single-biggest investments to date was established in 2019-20, to help develop intensive cropping systems. Expected to be worth around $28 million over five years, the National Tree Crop Intensification in Horticulture Program will develop and demonstrate to growers’, intensive crop production systems for the future. This strategic, innovative work has the potential to revolutionise crop production, transitioning orchards to intensive systems with high yields and profitability per hectare, and that best support the use of on-farm automation and superior, tailored varieties.

Byron said, “Hort Innovation also has investments in urban greening that seek to confirm the human mental and physical benefits of green infrastructure and future proof the urban planting palette to a 2070 climate.”

2021 and beyond

2021 and beyond also has a range of other focus areas for horticulture research and innovation.

This year includes a focus on the intensification of production, pollination and the use of alternate pollinators to the honey bee, keeping an eye on biosecurity threats and a drive to green our cities. 

Hort Innovation is also refreshing it’s Hort Frontiers program which focuses on transformational research and development. Byron said, “These transformational investments will be the intersection between genomics, crop intensification and robotics to revolutionise production.

“We have an exciting future ahead for horticulture. We need to ensure balance, and everything we do should be done in a sustainable way. We must be sustainable for the environment and for ourselves. The future of horticulture cares for the people, the planet and the plants.”

To find out more about Hort Innovation’s investment priorities and commercial partnership opportunities please contact the growAG. Team.

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Hort Innovation

Hort Innovation is the grower-owned, not-for-profit research and development corporation for Australia's horticulture industry. As one of the nation's 15 Rural …
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