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Water is a major input resource in all horticultural operations. Irrigation management practices have the potential to strongly influence both the quantity and quality of crop produced. In many cases, water is both a limited and limiting resource to horticultural production. However, the ability to irrigate does not automatically guarantee profitability and long term sustainability of horticultural farms. Inappropriate or inefficient irrigation practices may lead to crop stress, disease and / or loss, as well as groundwater and surface water contamination, erosion or salinity problems.

Infield Application
Irrigation Infrastructure
Irrigation Management
Irrigation Sustainability
Water Reuse
Water Supply

Farm waste management involves the responsible storage, collection and disposal of all farm waste and the preparation and implementation of a farm waste management plan.

Waste in horticulture represents the by-products of production. The best way to manage waste is to use resources efficiently. For instance optimal use of water, nutrients and energy covered in other parts of this guide limit the waste of water, nutrients or energy inputs used in the production of the crop.

Taking the optimisation approach further, the goal of some organic growers is to utilise organic wastes to such a degree that there is no need for a waste management plan other than to document the system for re-incorporating waste effectively.

Waste as an environmental problem is more universally associated with human activities and isn’t a horticulture-specific problem. The waste management hierarchies that have been developed since the 1970s have become well established and form the basis for an effective approach to managing farm waste.

Integrated pest management (IPM) refers to the use of multiple techniques to prevent crop damage from pests. The term ‘pest’ includes insects, plant diseases, weeds, nematodes and other organisms including vertebrate pests such as flying foxes that cause economic damage to crop yields. Pest management in this context refers to the management of the impacts of the pest on the economic output of the farm.

IPM is considered to be a scientifically sound approach that deals with the unique pest problems on each farm. It contributes to farm profitability whilst minimising environmental damage.

An IPM approach can vary according to your experience and perception of risk. Approaches range from biological control to more conventional methods covering every combination in between.

Fundamentals of pest management:

  • The presence of pests doesn’t necessarily lead to economic crop damage, or to damage at a level that would justify expensive intervention.
  • Biodiversity on farms, including predator species and disease fighting soil organisms, contributes to the resistance and resilience of the cropping system to pests and disease. Pest management is about managing impact rather than numbers.
  • Natural processes can have a large influence on whether or not a pest becomes a problem.  Wind, rain, humidity, seasonal timing, crop stages and temperature changes can serve as indicators of risk for the grower to monitor as well as pest presence. For instance, humidity and temperature may have a positive influence on the development of a predator species causing pests to be maintained below a threshold in one season and the opposite may occur before a sensitive crop period in the next season.
  • The implementation of many pest management methods together constitutes a useful IPM system, in contrast to the dependence on only one component (eg. a broad spectrum pesticide).
Application
Chemicals
Management & Safety
Monitoring & Recording
Resistance
Production

Biosecurity is a general description for a series of measures designed to protect the plant industry from the threats posed by insects and diseases. These pests may originate in other countries (exotic) or within other regions of Australia (endemic). Good biosecurity systems are critical for ensuring Australia’s food security and safety, protect productivity, grower livelihood and market access.

Biosecurity is important for everyone and it is up to industry, government and the community to be responsible and maintain Australia’s pant health status.

Here are six simple things you can do to reduce the risk of pests from entering and establishing on your farm.

  1. Be aware of biosecurity threats: make sure you and your farm workers are familiar with the most important pests per crop grown.
  2. Use clean planting material: ensure all planting material and other farm inputs are pest free.
  3. Keep it clean: take care to prevent the entry and movement of pests on your farm. Farm hygiene is a very effective preventative measure. Ensure that workers, visitors, vehicles and equipment are decontaminated before they enter and leave your farm.
  4. Check your crop: checking your crops frequently for pests will help you and your staff to notice anything new or unusual.
  5. Report anything unusual: if you suspect a new pest report it immediately.
  6. Abide by the law: be aware of legislative regulations established to protect the plant industry from biosecurity threats.
Access
Management

Energy (ie. electricity, diesel, gas) is a major input in all horticultural operations. Energy management practices have the potential to strongly influence $ returned.

Improving your energy efficiency is an effective way to reduce on-farm costs and have a positive impact on the environment. Energy is derived from a number of sources including power stations or fuels such as petrol and diesel. There are a number of strategies that can be used to make energy savings.

By using one of the many calculator programs or spreadsheets for this purpose a grower can express the total farm energy use in terms of cost per unit of production. For many growers the use of energy calculators is easy since they can input their costs or usage directly from bills for fuel and energy from their various suppliers and compare that against expected or historical production.

Once there is a measure of energy use, a simple management program can be followed to:

  • identify current energy use
  • set a target
  • take actions to meet the new target energy per unit product level
  • check to ensure that the new targets are being met
  • revising the target to find new savings and improvements.

This simple management cycle is well known and can easily be applied on farms to make incremental gains in efficiency.

Lighting
Machinery Tractors
Management
Packing Sheds and Cool Rooms
Workshops and Office

Biodiversity as it refers to the broad mix of species that occurs in any given area can benefit growers in several ways. For example:

  • Vegetation helps to clean air and water, and regulate the local climate.
  • Fungi, worms and bacteria help break down plant material to make fertile and well-structured soil. They are crucial for cycling of nutrients within soil into forms that are available to crops.
  • Many plants depend upon insects to pollinate them, and birds and insects to keep pests away or to keep their numbers under control.
  • Native vegetation along waterways traps contaminants before they can reach the water, strengthens stream banks to reduce erosion, gives shade and food inputs to in-stream life, and provides habitat (homes) for wildlife, insects and other organisms.
  • Vegetation provides shade, shelter, noise barriers and privacy. The use of native vegetation as wind breaks can also reduce moisture loss through evaporation, be a tool to manage salinity, and increase the distribution uniformity of irrigation.
  • Maintaining native vegetation contributes to the unique character of the Australian landscape and the reputation of the horticultural industry, as well as a special part of the farm for family recreation and sense of place.
  • Biodiversity on farm can help to combat pest and disease incursions by limiting available habitat for invading species and controlling their numbers.
  • Biodiversity can increase system resilience to major problems such as high winds and flooding since deep-rooted native vegetation slows both wind and water and can help protect against erosion.

The maintenance of biodiversity will eventually become an ecosystem service that may be valued through incentive payments in the future.

As an employer, you carry significant legal responsibility and liability for ensuring the health and safety of your workers under the Work Health and Safety and Other Legislation. Creating a safe work environment is essential to the overall success of your business, and is one of the best ways to retain staff and maximise productivity and profitability.

Although there are some costs associated with implementing safe workplace practices, taking no action can be serious and expensive – for you and your workers.

All employers have responsibilities regarding health and safety in the workplace. As a horticulture employer, your responsibilities are heightened due to the nature of our industry, and the range of potential hazards and risks on a farm. Knowing and understanding Workplace Health and Safety laws will help you avoid unnecessary costs and damage to your business caused by workplace injury or illness. It will also provide your business with a strong foundation to achieve long-term success.

Communication Consultation
Management Committment
Reporting
Safe Work Procedures
Specific Procedures for Farm
Training Supervision
Workcover Return to Work

The purpose of soil management is to conserve soil, provide guidance on how to achieve optimal soil health and therefore prevent decline in productivity. It also aims to prevent erosion and loss of valuable soil from farm land.

Soil health: The capacity of a soil to function within ecosystem boundaries to sustain biological productivity, maintain environmental quality, and promote plant and animal health. Often used synonymously with soil quality.

Soil quality changes slowly because of natural processes, such as weathering, and more rapidly under human activity; land use and farming practices may change soil quality for the better or for the worse.

Soil health deterioration is mainly caused through erosion by wind and water, loss of organic matter and biological activity, breakdown of soil structure, salinisation, net loss of nutrients, and chemical contamination. The consequences of soil health deterioration are declining soil fertility and productivity.

Preferred hierarchy for land and soil management:

  1. Good pre-planning of cropping and soil management to reduce the impact on soil health.
  2. Prevent degradation due to: soil compaction, erosion, nutrient imbalances, soil structure decline, salinity, sodicity, acidity, or the accumulation of heavy metals.
  3. Maintain productivity and protect soils from degradation.
  4. Manage for optimal soil health
Chemistry
Management

Risk management and uncertainty are keys when considering climate risks in farm businesses. Increasing temperatures, variations in rainfall and increased risks of more severe extreme weather events are the main causes of increased risks for horticulture farms. All climate hazards should be taken into consideration for both short and long term farm planning.

An important aspect is to both consider risks and the opportunities that a change in climate can provide. Understanding the hazards and the risks they present to your farm business is key for successful climate adaptation. Not all risks needs to be addressed immediately, climate changes can be slow and not easily identified if focus is on other day-to-day concerns. Establishing trigger points for adaptation action in management plans is a good way to make sure climate adaptation is addressed when necessary. Being pro-active on climate risks instead of re-active can make a large difference to the costs and sustainability of your farm businesses.

Here is a quick and easy way to get your head around what’s involved in preparing your farm business for natural disasters.

The seven webinars below cover the basics of how to be prepared for extreme weather events and what actions you can take to help you recover quickly if your farm business is affected by a natural disaster.

  1. Lessons learned from a decade of disasters in Queensland’s horticulture
  2. A framework for disaster risk management in farm businesses
  3. Tips for re-assessing climate risks in farm businesses
  4. Preventing (or reducing) impacts from extreme weather events in your farm business
  5. Preparing for extreme weather and natural disaster in your farm business
  6. Responding to a severe weather event in your farm business
  7. Recovering from a natural disaster – tips for farm businesses

Water run-off from irrigated areas can cause increased soil erosion, loss of productivity, loss of agricultural chemicals and unacceptable off-site impacts. Run-off from intensively farmed areas usually contains soil particles which can move into streams and cause increased stream turbidity and siltation. Agricultural chemicals may also be dissolved in the water or attached to soil particles and this can further increase stream pollution. In addition, any water flowing from the property onto riparian areas that are not carefully managed can cause degradation of these areas and erosion of stream banks.

The problems associated with run-off are:

  • high sediment load and chemical pollutants leaving an irrigated area (particularly in first-flush storm water)
  • high velocity of run-off flows causing erosion and degrading stream banks.

 

Management practices and strategies to control run-off from irrigation properties vary with the type of irrigation system used, land slopes, geographic features and soil types.

In general, run-off can be controlled in-field by adopting appropriate tillage practices and maintaining soil cover. Off-field strategies usually include use of buffer zones and collection sumps. To minimise the discharge of contaminants into waterways, it is essential that irrigators have a storm water management plan to deal with rainfall events that will cause run-off from the irrigated area.

Buffer Riparian
Control Measures
Farm Runoff
Infield Runoff

When planning a new farm, crop or operational layout, there are a growing number of tools and techniques that can be used to reduce the sources and spread of air pollutants.

In the planning stages of the cropping operation, it may be easier to divide the farm practices by process. Processes like tillage and harvest have different potential for generating air pollutants than activities that maintain cropland during the growth phase or that occur on non-cropland during other farm operations.

All horticultural enterprises will produce noise whilst going about their business. Whilst noise reduction is important, it is even more important to manage the impact of that noise. A number of actions can be taken to reduce the impact of noise.

The first point of prevention is in planning new or seasonal operations and infrastructure to minimise noise effects for employees and off-farm. If possible involving neighbours at planning stages is advisable for short term occurrences of noise at night, for instance during a harvest period. Informing neighbours about the timing and duration of such events allows some level of predictability for the neighbour that reduces the occurrence of complaints. Providing a number to call for local residents to complain directly allows a sense of control that also reduces the overall amount of outrage and reduces the occurrence of complaints.

Noise has a subjective nature and does not affect all people equally. People may be more sensitive to certain types of noise or the noise may be considered unpleasant simply because it occurs at a certain time or place.

Understanding how your farm business finances are performing is integral to being able to make smart decisions relating to the activities that you carry out in your farming operation. While the profit and loss statements and balance sheets included in your tax return provide important figures for the operation of your farm business, the financial data that they provide can be broken down even further to provide more meaningful information which can be used to assess the performance of your farm business finances over time.

Growers generally have an idea as to where their business is heading however this vision or concept is often not shared, verbalised or documented. Undertaking a business planning/strategy process enables the business to capitalise on current efficiencies and resources, brings all concerned to the same page and provides a platform for development.

Finance
Management
Selling

Nutrients are an important input for optimising crop yield and maintaining the productive capacity of the paddock. Nutrition management practices have the potential to strongly influence both the quantity and quality of crop produced as well as minimising the risk of land degradation and improving the natural productivity of the soil. Getting the soil and nutrients balanced correctly is a constantly changing operation with adaptive management the key to getting a good result. Inappropriate or inefficient practices can lead to a higher risk of crop failure due to salinity, sodicity, acidic soils, groundwater and surface water contamination, erosion and involves wasting money and resources among others.

Application
Decision
Management