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Hub trials on the ground in the Granite Belt

15 November 2022

Supporting the resilience of the Granite Belt community is a key focus of the Southern Queensland and Northern New South Wales (SQNNSW) Drought Resilience Adoption and Innovation Hub’s Stanthorpe-based Node, which was officially launched this week.

SQNNSW Hub Director Professor John McVeigh said the Node would leverage research and a highly involved and motivated farming and agribusiness sector.

“The University of Southern Queensland-led Hub currently has six Nodes from Western Queensland to Northern New South Wales, and we’re especially pleased to have this Node based at the Queensland College of Wine Tourism,” Professor McVeigh said.

“Our Node Manager Wim Linström has already connected researchers and farmers in a series of trials already underway,” he said.

At the official Node launch, hosted by the Granite Belt Growers Association on 15 November, farmers, business and community members had the chance to hear more about current and upcoming projects.

“The Hub is supporting a proof-of-concept project, exploring the viability of using drones to identify downy mildew in grapevines,” Professor McVeigh said.

“Downy mildew is a disease that can cause severe yield loss for most commercial grape varieties and can spread rapidly in the right conditions.

“Current detection involves in-person inspections. What we are hoping to help develop is a drone-based option that will allow for easier detection, and earlier detection, resulting in reduced labour costs, reduced input costs and better protection for vines not just on the Granite Belt, but potentially across the country.”

The second project is aimed at improving the region’s soils.

“The castings created by earthworms, vermicast, has long been recognised as a fertiliser and soil conditioner,” Professor McVeigh said.

“Our Stanthorpe Node is working with industry and growers to trial the potential benefits on on-farm worm farms, including a comparison of soil, plant health and yields under commercial conditions.”

Professor McVeigh said while these trials were based on the Granite Belt, they had the potential to benefit other regions.

“The job of the Hub’s isn’t to ‘reinvent the wheel’ but to help producers and their communities grow in resilience and their capacity to manage climate variability by bringing together those already working on drought resilience, agricultural innovation and wellbeing. That’s what these exciting projects will do.”

The Stanthorpe Node was launched on 15 November 2022, at the Queensland College of Wine Tourism, at a Granite Belt Growers Association farmer networking event.

The SQNNSW Hub is one of eight Hubs established across Australia through funding from the Australian Government’s Future Drought Fund.

The Australian Government is contributing $10 million over 4 years to the Hub through the Future Drought Fund to boost drought resilience and agricultural innovation. Hub partners will provide co-contributions of $10.8 million over 4 years.