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Derwent farmer’s biofumigant poppy trial shows promise

With the help of a NRM South public benefit grant last year, farmer James Allwright from Ellendale established a biofumigant trial on his poppy fields from his own resources and with the support of Derwent Catchment NRM Committee and Serve-Ag set to work on this innovative venture in poppy growing. Biofumigation is an all-natural way to protect and nurture farming soil and suppress weeds, fungal pathogens and insects.

Modern biofumigant plant varieties used as a rotation in vegetable crops such as potatoes are known to produce multiple benefits such as improved soil health, reducing the incidence and severity of soil borne diseases and pests, reducing weed infestation and increasing the following cash crop yield.

“Would they work in poppies?…” was a question that Jim and farming son Ning Allwright wanted to explore. A trial was set up to plant a number of biofumigant varieties as a rotation prior to the planting of the Allwright’s 2014 poppy crop.

The biofumigants trialled were Caliente 199 (Mustard), Nemat (Rocket), Doublet (Radish) and Caliente/Nemat Blend. These varieties were established in trial plots under a centre pivot paddock. A control plot was left fallow.

Preliminary trial harvest data shows a significant effect due to the biofumigant treatments, but the next step will be to examine the data from TPI Enterprises which will show the commercially harvested yield and assay results.

In commenting on the trial harvest data, Jim Allwright said “damaging winds in early September after the poppy crop was sown blew out the control area and subsequently this area didn’t receive the weed control that the biofumigant areas received. Therefore, the crop that did establish on the control area was at a significant disadvantage.”  On the other hand, Jim said, “it could be argued that the biofumigant treatment areas helped to significantly protect the soil from the damaging winds we had.”

Serve-Ag Technical Agronomist, Julie Finnigan, also noted that there was lodging of the poppies after significant rainfall events and that the Caliente treatment was the most affected.  Julie noted that, “the preliminary results are likely to be somewhat misrepresentative, as we could not harvest the lodged poppies”. “The same rainfall events may affect the commercial harvest yield and assay data due to reduced alkaloid levels resulting from the rain”, she said.

Further analysis of the trial will take place after the commercial harvest data is received from TPI Enterprises. This will include the assessment of Jim and Ning on whether they would use biofumigants again. Ease of management as well as commercial yield and assay results will be important considerations in their assessment. A field walk was held through Derwent Catchment NRM Committee later in 2014, with interest from local farmers in biofumigants.  Final results should be interesting and will be released soon.

These and other projects supported through NRM South grants have initiated and trialled new practices and interest in the farming community, as well as protecting natural resources, improving conditions including soil health, and sharing knowledge through field days and trial studies.

If you are interested in implementing an innovative project on your farm or production enterprise, you can download the NRM South Naturally Inspired guidelines and application form. Applicants must be able to demonstrate public benefit element, such as being able to share your project with others, involve education and awareness  or benefits to the broader ecosystem or landscape (an example would be to implement vegetation corridors that may support habitat for threatened species – such as Tasmanian Devil or migratory bird species as examples)


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