Funding to grow more avos

Tari JeffersManjimup-Bridgetown Times
South West Catchments Council chief executive Steve Ewings trials insect collection with a drone.
Camera IconSouth West Catchments Council chief executive Steve Ewings trials insect collection with a drone. Credit: SWCC

Potential methods to grow the avocado industry are at the heart of more than $500,000 in Federal Government funding.

Federal Agriculture Minister Bridget McKenzie last week announced the $510,788 grant would be used to research insect pollinators to help fertilisation of avocado flowers.

The research will be carried out in the South West and the project would use innovative methods to identify insect pollinators, how well they pollinate avocado flowers and whether they pollinate across a whole orchard.

The grant has been provided to the South West Catchments Council through the Smart Farming Partnerships program.

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South West Catchments Council program manager Mike Christensen said the group was fortunate to secure the funding for the two-and-a-half-year project.

Dr Christensen said the key point of the project was to identify what pollinators were visiting avocados and look at environmental DNA (e-DNA) to maximise the benefits.

“We were the only group in WA to secure the grant in this round of funding,” he said.

“Once we’ve collected the data, we will look at the biology of the pollinators and adjust conditions in our participating orchards to encourage growth in population.”

The project will involve harvesting avocado flowers and capturing pollinators with drones.

Dr Christensen said the project involved Curtin University, the Department of Primary Industry and Regional Development, one Manjimup grower, two Bridgetown growers and could potentially expand to include a grower in Busselton.

“This project has the potential to boost Australia’s $483 million avocado industry and our $11 billion horticultural sector more broadly by identifying ways to optimise pollination,” Senator McKenzie said.

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