The Soil Wealth and Integrated Crop Protection projects are a national extension
program aimed at communicating information about soil management to growers in a form
that they can really use. The national program is run jointly by Applied
Horticultural Research and RMCG Dr Gordon Rogers, principal of Applied Horticultural
Research, says that the program was developed to ensure growers could remain up-to-date on relevant and accessible
information about the soil management studies being undertaken in Australia and throughout
the world. Soil Wealth was developed because there has
been a lot of research done in relation to soil management and soil health issues, and
that’s in vegetable crops and other crops, both in Australia and overseas, but often
that information was not being put into a form that growers or advisors could actually
make use of, and it wasn’t always being communicated directly to them. The Soil
Wealth project was really tasked with taking that good research information, and putting
it into an accessible form for growers and advisors. Dr Rogers says that the project’s reach has been far beyond what was originally anticipated, and they’ve been able to see results in action. At the start of the project we aimed to connect
with 200 growers, and also to connect with about 50% of the advisors in the industry. After 3 years into the program, we’ve actually
connected with about 2,000 growers, and about that 50% of the advisors Of those around 2,000 growers that have
been directly engaged by the project, about 80% of those have reported back to us that
they’ve been able to make better decisions as a result of the information that they’ve
received, and have either made changes to their practices or are considering changes. The core of our project are the demonstration
sites almost all of those are on commercial farms and that’s where growers
and advisors can come along and they can see some of these innovations in the field, on a real commercial farm. To support those demonstration sites we use
a whole range of communication methods, for example fact sheets, we’ve produced about
71 fact sheets, we use webinars, we’ve used videos, masterclasses. We’ve tried to use a range of different,
more traditional and more electronic type of communication methods to try to get across to everyone. Carl Larsen is a senior consultant at RMCG. He believes the success of the program comes
down to its unique communications approach, ICP in conjuction with Soil Wealth is all about creating
healthy soils and that in turn leading to healthy plants, so improving productivity
and sustainability within the veggie industry primarily around improved soil management
and plant health. It’s a really unique approach, we used a
number of traditional extension methods like farm walks, workshops and face to face events,
and coupled that with some really different methods in other industries, like e-extension,
which came out of the grains industry in the US, which uses social media, electronic platforms
a lot more, so that’s things like webinars and social media like Twitter and Facebook for the
demonstration sites, and also other unique concepts coming out of research like masterclasses,
so multi-day connecting researchers, agronomists and growers and having a third structured
content, a third unstructured and a third practical, out in the field. Carl says that industry feedback is vital, and will help to shape the program into the future. So we’re working with Hort Innovation and a number of
different industry groups and stakeholders to make sure both Soil Wealth and ICP meet industry and grower
demand and needs, and that’s primarily through a PRG that we’ve established nationally
that meets every 6 months but also having more informal mechanisms of feedback primarily
through the demo sites, they’re the eyes and ears on the ground day-to-day in each of those growing
areas. We have had a really strong focus on monitoring and evaluation and one of the key things we developed at the end of Phase One, so from 2014-17 was an achievements video, to really report back to industry what had the projects done and that covered things like engagement, what events and training had been run, communication products and where to from here. And excitingly, we’ve had really great feedback on that and Hort Innovation, along with a lot of the industry partners, are looking at Phase Two now, of the projects for Soil Wealth and ICP and where to from here. And that’s going to cover the next five years, with both projects running, again, integrated and side-by-side, which is really exciting. Greg Murdoch is a fund manager at Hort Innovation. He says that the Soil Wealth and Integrated
Crop Protection projects allow growers to better meet the needs of modern consumers. Soil health and crop protection is vital for
the sector for profitability and sustainability, with the growing market demand on reducing
pesticides within product and maintaining soils in an environmentally sustainable way,
it’s important to meet consumer needs. So growers should get involved in the programs,
it gives them the opportunity to get involved in the latest R&D and take back some learnings
to the farm to meet those requirements. Thanks for watching this episode of InfoVeg
TV. For more information on Soil Wealth or Integrated
Crop Protection, please see soilwealth.com.au. Soil Wealth and Integrated Crop Protection are funded by Hort Innovation, using the vegetable research and development levy, and contributions from the Australian Government. Don’t forget to subscribe to our channel
to ensure you don’t miss any future episodes.