Newsletter Autumn 2006

Welcome to the Autumn Update from Serve-Ag Research

Globalisation – threat or opportunity?

Whether we like it or not, there is no stopping the growing trend of increasing cross-border economic, social and technological exchanges. The impact of imports on Australia’s vegetable industry has been recognised in recent months.

Having recently attended meetings in the USA, it is clear to me that increased sharing of data globally and greater international collaborations will become more necessary in the future.

Australia is a relatively minor player on the global scene for most agricultural commodities and can easily be overlooked in any global rationalisation of data collection and technology development.

With this in mind Serve-Ag Research will continue to build a world class team of field researchers to service not only the Australian market, but position us on the global scene; as part of this we are pleased to announce our expansion into Bowen and New Zealand.

Ian Macleod, Managing Director

Serve-Ag Research branches out

Serve-Ag Research has recently opened a North Queensland office in Bowen to be operated by Chris Monsour. Chris has been involved in agricultural research since completing his Applied Science degree in 1991. Over the last 8 years has worked as a horticultural consultant and researcher in the Bowen/Burdekin region with Bowen Crop Monitoring Services.

As a new member of Serve-Ag Research, Chris will specialise in undertaking field research in the dry tropics of North Queensland. He has considerable experience in conducting efficacy, residue, crop safety, fertiliser and variety assessment trials and has also developed a keen interest in biological control agents. Chris has an established rapport with growers and industry contacts in the region and a genuine understanding of regional agricultural issues and grower priorities.

And the location isn’t bad either! Bowen is situated on the Queensland coast at the top of the Whitsunday group of islands, half way between Mackay and Townsville. The region is a major agricultural area, producing a wide variety of horticultural crops including tomatoes, capsicums, chillies, sweet corn, beans, eggplant, grapes, passionfruit and a range of cucurbit crops. It is also well known for mangoes, lychees, sugar cane, cotton, coffee, turf and ornamentals.

Bigger and better in South Australia

Serve-Ag South Australia undertook a number of initiatives in 2005, to cater for an expansion in operations and to simultaneously improve the level of customer service and the delivery of a professional product to clients.

The leased broadacre research site (pictured left), located near Paskeville on the northern Yorke Peninsula, was expanded significantly this season. The area is available for crop safety work, efficacy trials, and GLP studies. In co-operation with the landholder, the area used is rotated from year to year, whilst a level of operational control is maintained over the site to ensure trial integrity from one season to the next.

Two major highlights on Serve-Ag SA’s calendar in 2005 were the move to their new premises at 132 Glynburn Road, Tranmere, and the purchase of a Kingaroy small plot harvester to meet the growing demands of the winter cropping program. The machine incorporates an electronic weighing system for quick and efficient yield determination and is easily cleaned between plots – an essential feature when harvesting GLP trials.

Superior control methods for toad rush

Serve-Ag Research is currently undertaking a three year project with RIRDC to investigate the impact of toad rush (Juncus bufonius) on subterranean clover seed crops and to evaluate possible herbicide control options. The project is being conducted in NSW, Vic and SA under the supervision of Serve-Ag Research’s NSW Project Manager, John Seidel.

Changes in agricultural practice have seen toad rush emerge as a weed of significance. Toad rush is widespread in southern NSW, northeast and western Victoria and southeast South Australia and is now recognised in Western Australia as a significant weed.

Toad rush is a small, narrow-leaved rush which prefers waterlogged, poorly drained acidic soils. It is small, shallow rooted, germinates in extremely high numbers (over 30,000 plants /m2) and the seed is viable in the soil for over 10 years. Toad rush can use over 30% of the available nitrogen in the topsoil and can substantially reduce crop and pasture yields.

For subterranean clover seed growers the removal of toad rush should lead to a number of potential benefits including improved clover establishment, increased herbage yield and seed production, increased soil nitrogen input and facilitation of clover seed harvesting. There is no scientific data available to show the most appropriate time to remove toad rush from pasture to maximise seed production. In this project, Serve-Ag Research will look at three removal timings – at sowing, early post-emergence and late post-emergence.

Currently, there is a wide selection of herbicides that are effective against toad rush, however, many are not registered in pasture or can potentially cause phytotoxicity to subterranean clover. Serve-Ag Research will also be conducting a herbicide screen with a range of potential herbicides. The more superior herbicide alternatives for effectiveness on toad rush will be determined and successful candidates will be tested for safety to subterranean clover pasture.

For more information about the toad rush project contact John Seidel,

Links with America

Ian Macleod has recently returned from a conference in the USA – The National Alliance of Independent Crop Consultants (NAICC) annual meeting, which was attended by more than 300 delegates, mainly from North America and Europe.

The NAICC conference was held in the middle of the Sonaran Desert in Tuscon, Arizona, where there was little distraction from the surrounding agriculture as the only green in the region was the local golf course, giant Saguaros and other prickly desert plants!

A diverse range of speakers, including the Special Assistant to the Secretary, US Department of Agriculture, provided valuable insights into diverse topics such as harmonisation and globalisation of regulatory studies, reviews of new technologies and updates on biotechnology.

Speakers from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and industry leaders provided an update on the current status of data sharing between countries and expressed that many organisations are active in ensuring that the use of data across countries is more efficient in the future.

Ian also made an address at the conference on “Contract Research in Australia”. Ian’s allotted presentation time of 7:30 am, following the “Wild, Wild West Networking Dinner”, could have been a difficult time to retain listener’s interest, however, the novelty of an Australian speaker was enough to ensure a large turnout and plenty of interest by attendees for a trip Down Under.

For more information about the conference and the presentations given contact Ian Macleod,

New options for the vegetable industry

Serve-Ag Research recently completed the latest round of Vegetable Minor Use work allocated by HAL/Ausveg. This project generated pesticide residue data in a range of vegetable crops to support minor use permit applications to the APVMA.

Twenty-six trials were carried out to address a range of pests and diseases in crops such as beetroot, radish, spinach, cauliflower, fennel, leeks and cucumber. All trials were carried out in compliance with the principles of Good Laboratory Practice (GLP).

Individual field reports, analytical reports and APVMA minor use permit applications were produced for each study, with the final permit application lodged in February 2006. All permits are currently being evaluated by APVMA with the first permits likely to be issued very soon.

For the most current news on permit approvals, details can be found on the APVMA website.