Hunt for Saboteur

The Queensland State Government has posted a $200,000 reward for information that leads to the conviction of the perpetrator(s) responsible for poisoning millions of seedlings in one of Australia’s most productive food bowls. Up to 7 million tomato, capsicum, melon and eggplant seedlings were poisoned in June 2010 when a herbicide was injected into the irrigation system shared by Bowen’s Supa Seedlings nursery and Donnelly’s farm, a hydroponic greenhouse tomato operation. It is the third time crops in the region have been poisoned.

According to Denise Kreymborg, Industry Development Officer with the Bowen and Gumlu District Growers Association (BDGA), around 350 hectares of production land has been affected with the potential to produce around 16,200 tonne of fresh produce bound for Australian markets. She estimates the economic impact on the industry and local community to be around $23 ½ million, but the cost could be far higher. Many employees will be laid off due to lack of available work, and it is expected to disrupt the flow of seasonal workers (mostly backpackers) who will move on, which in turn will lead to labour shortages in the region for the last few months of the harvest season. There are also wider implications for the already devastated tourism industry, which relies heavily on backpacker trade to help sustain it each year. For consumers it means tomato prices will soar as shortages become apparent in September; not unlike what happened to the price of bananas following Cyclone Larry, which devastated the banana industry. It is hoped the reward will help Police catch the culprit(s), and act as a deterrent for anyone contemplating it in the future. For more information see our story Bitter Harvest in this issue.

The new $1.2 million horticulture facility at Chisholm Institute of TAFE, in Cranbourne, Victoria, is a world-class training facility and an Australian first. Packed with the latest in controlled environment and labour management technology, along with state-of-the-art crop production systems, the Chisholm facility is expected to give a much-needed boost to skills training for an industry now valued at around $1.3 billion at the farm-gate. Currently, many Australian growers, and those considering a career in commercial hydroponics, travel to educational facilities in Holland to learn the latest growing techniques using the latest technology developments. The new Chisholm facility is good news not only for local and regional horticulture industries, but also invites international enrolments from the world’s fastest growing region to undertake industry-driven training. More information can be found in our report on the recent Hydroponics Farmers Federation conference and trade show.

Steven Carruthers

PH&G September/October 2010 – Issue 114

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