New vegetable research into protective cropping in the South Pacific islands and Australia could help overcome challenges posed by climate and global food security. Queensland horticultural researchers recently met with vegetable industry representatives and groups from across Fiji and Samoa to discuss a new approach to developing protected cropping systems for the region.

The research, due to begin in 2013, will validate crop growing systems that are likely to raise the production of high-value vegetables in the region and increase grower income.

Researchers working for the Pacific Agribusiness Research for Development Initiative (*PARDI) within the Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation at The University of Queensland (UQ), are heading the research.

Project leader, Dr Elio Jovicich (Queensland Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry) and fellow PARDI researcher, Shane Dullahide (UQ), met with industry representatives throughout Fiji and Samoa to discuss low-cost protective structure designs and research activities.

They visited farms already using protective cropping and met with importers of protective structures.

Dr Jovicich said it was clear from the meetings that participants would make the most of the opportunities offered by protective cropping systems.

“Protective cropping systems involve the use of some type of structure supporting a cover material above plants grown with cultural methods that maximise yield per unit area,” Dr Jovicich said.

Pacific Agribusiness Research for Development Initiative (PARDI) project participants view vegetable production under a protective structure.

"Yield and quality of commodities, such as capsicum, tomatoes and leafy vegetables could be increased considerably through the adoption of appropriate low-cost protective cropping systems in many areas across the South Pacific islands.

“In the warm tropics, crop covers increase productivity by protecting crops from extreme inconsistent weather events.

"Research into crop covers will also be conducted in North Queensland.

"The structures and techniques developed through collaborative work will benefit vegetable growers in the South Pacific islands and Australia.”

PARDI is coordinated by The University of Queensland and funded by the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR).

Protective cropping project participants include commercial growers, the Secretariat of the Pacific Community, The Fiji Ministry of Primary Industries, Fiji National University, the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries (MAF) in Samoa, Queensland Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Aus-AID and researchers from other associated PARDI and ACIAR projects.

For more information: Elio Jovicich, 0488 770 925 and

Source: The University of Queensland