The Federal government has committed A$14.6m to a trial netting programme that aims to improve South Australia’s horticultural productivity, as well as protect future crops from intensifying weather conditions.
Growers in the Greater Adelaide, Adelaide Hills and Riverland region will be encouraged to install new netting, or repair broken netting, under a dollar-for-dollar scheme.
Apples and Pears Australia (Apal) estimated the cost of netting could be as high as A$60,000 per hectare. The scheme allows growers to access up to A$300,000 of funding, provided they invest that money in the first place.
Therefore, going by the estimates Apal released, the maximum netting a single property could install or replace covered entirely by the funding would be 5ha.
Minister for agriculture, Bridget McKenzie, said the majority of orchards were not netted and the up-front costs of installing the protection were a major barrier for farmers.
“Netting delivers clear productivity boosts to apple and pear farmers by protecting crops from extreme weather and predators,” said McKenzie.
Recent hailstorms in Queensland have provided a timely indicator of how protective netting can prevent damage to crops, with Yanalla Farms releasing this remarkable video.
“Netting increases protection from sunburn, wind and hail—not to mention the birds and bats that love to have a first crack at our premium South Australian fruit crops.
“Perhaps more importantly during the current drought, netting delivers a dramatic improvement in water efficiency,” she added.
“A recent three-year trial in Western Australia found netting reduced water requirements by around 20 per cent.
“It’s a vital investment in the Australian Government’s work to grow the value of horticulture production and lift the value of agriculture to A$100bn by 2030.”
Additional funds have been made available for the South Australian apple and pear growers who were hit particularly hard in the recent hailstorms.
South Australian senator, Anne Ruston, acknowledged the Adelaide Hills families for the resilience they have shown following recent hailstorms.
“The Government is delighted that we can provide this assistance to ensure our local horticulture industries remain viable into the future,” said Ruston.
The scheme will commence in 2020 and operate until 31 December 2021 or until funds are fully committed. Eligible growers will be required to at least match the Commonwealth contribution.