Environmental Assurance project gives SA veggie grower a fresh outlook

The Horticulture for Tomorrow Environmental Assurance Project has provided South Australian vegetable grower, Graeme Pitchford with a fresh approach to his business.

When Graeme first acquired his 100-hectare property at Currency Creek near Goolwa, there were a number of environmental issues that needed to be addressed including free-range pigs, rubbish in the waterways, soil degradation and nutrient leaching.

Participation in the Horticulture for Tomorrow Environmental Assurance Project grower trials for the Draft Guidelines for Environmental Assurance in Australian Horticulture has inspired Graeme to investigate a range of activities and actions such as installing intercept drains and changing planting patterns to integrate better with soil type.

The guidelines have been designed to help growers link production targets to their care for the environment as an integral part of daily business management, and since the launch of the Environmental Assurance Project in 2005, more than 160 horticulturists have been involved in the trials along with 40 stakeholders and 20 non-funded growers.

Graeme grows broccolini, baby cos lettuce, iceberg lettuce, celeriac, purple dutch carrots on his vegetable property and said water efficiency and soil health were two aspects that he closely monitored on his property.

“Making sure there is no water run-off into the nearby creek and organising paddocks to encourage water flow along a drain to a low spot, use of pressure compensating sprinklers to get even watering and recently has started using T tape irrigation to save wasted over spray, reduced evaporation and to provide a more efficient fertigation are all practises Graeme is now utilising ”

According to the guidelines, inefficient use of water resources can result in the rising of the watertable, which in turn increases soil salinity, along with nutrient leaching, contamination of land and waterways from run-off water and a general reduction in water quality.

The inappropriate rate of application or quality of irrigation water can also cause a reduction of arable land, soil erosion and waterlogging.

Graeme said the guidelines and grower trials were beneficial because they continually reminded growers of what they needed to work towards, while also allowing growers to share ideas and expertise.

“Greme believe that many people think vegetable growers use a lot of harmful pesticides and this is a perception that is hard to change on a small scale, but if all growers had to adhere to a set of environmental standards the general public’s opinion could be changed.”

“Providing environmental assurance is also important because it ensures the long-term viability of a property and it is beneficial for growers to look after and maintain soil quality.”

For more information about the project please contact Alison Turnbull at HAL on (02) 8295 2317. Information is also available via www.horticulturefortomorrow.com.au

For further media information or to arrange an interview, please contact Alex Taylor on (08) 8272 8699 or 0438 308 361.

High resolution photos are available by contacting Emma Angus at Porter Novelli on (08) 8272 8699 or by e-mailing emmaa@porternovellisa.com.au

The Enviroveg web site : http://ausveg.com.au/enviroveg/programs.htm

Caption: South Australian vegetable grower, Graeme Pitchford with his broccolini crop at Currency Creek.