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PIPS3: Improved Australian apple and pear orchards soil health and plant nutrition

Research & Extension

TIA’s Nigel Swarts.

Hort Innovation has kicked off the third Apple and Pear industry Productivity, Irrigation, Pests and Soils (PIPS3) program. The program covers apple and pear orchards across the country and focuses on new technology and advanced management systems and applying integrated biological management to pests, diseases and soil. The four projects involved have been developed to conduct integrated research activities and provide whole orchard system outputs and outcomes for the apple and pear industry.

AP19006: Improved Australian apple and pear orchards soil health and plant nutrition is being led by Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture Senior Research Fellows, Dr Nigel Swarts and Dr Sally Bound. In this video he provides an overview of how the research will be undertaken and the outcome benefits for apple and pear growers, and their business sustainability and profitability.

This project is adopting a systems approach with consideration given to how outcomes will be integrated with other aspects of orchard management. It will undertake research trials, using a range of tree-line (cover crops (legume/grass mix), compost mulch, grower practices) and inter-row (native herbaceous mix, flowering meadow mix, grass/legume mix) sustainable management treatments, on orchards in five growing regions (Tasmania, Victoria, South Australia, Western Australia & New South Wales). This approach will reflect regional priorities and soil, climatic and management system differences to:

         Identify the biological, structural and chemical indicators for soil health, including relationship to regional and soil type differences, and assessment methods.

         Improve understanding of the interaction between management practices, soil health, nutrient availability, water availability, pest and disease control and fruit productivity/quality.

         Measure the impact of sustainable orchard floor management on the presence and function of mycorrhizal fungi and the organic carbon content of the soil.

         Conduct studies to understand relationships between soil health, tree health, growth and fruit yield, productivity and quality.

         Understand and address grower perceived impediments to adoption including water requirements, herbicide and fungicide use, tractor movements and fire risk.

         Use regional front line advisors to coordinate local studies in response to local input; and

         Develop an irrigation (soil water balance) and nutrient management decision support web App.


         Increased understanding of how orchard floor management practices impact on soil health, tree water-availability, nutrition and health, and pest and disease incursions.

         Greater knowledge on how to implement these approaches in relation to regional variation.

         Demonstrated links between healthy soils and orchard sustainability.

         Reduced environmental footprint of apple and pear production systems through application of sustainable (regenerative) approaches to orchard floor management.


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