Challenges to sustainable potato production in Tasmania, Australia
Sparrow, LA and Cotching, WE and Wilson, CR, Challenges to sustainable potato production in Tasmania, Australia, ASA, CSSA and SSSA International Annual Meetings, 16-19 October 2011, Texas USA (2011) [Conference Extract]
Tasmania is a significant potato producer in Australia, accounting for c. 25% of the nationís annual crop of about 1 million tonnes. The cool-temperate climate and deep, well structured soils are well suited to potato production. French fries are the main potato product, accounting for about 80% of the crop. Potatoes are grown with high inputs of tillage, fungicide, fertiliser and irrigation, but insecticide applications are very modest compared to elsewhere because Tasmaniaís geographic isolation and tight quarantine regime have kept many pests from establishing, and the excellent seed certification has negated any need for virus vector control in either seed or ware crops. The industry faces a number of management challenges including combating soil erosion on the steep land widely used for potatoes, making more efficient use of fertiliser and irrigation, and managing a range of soil-borne diseases. Indications are that the industry is not making widespread gains on these fronts. This is partly a consequence of imperfect advice on how to manage these challenges. For example, tests for soil phosphorus responsiveness and soil-borne disease risk are not well calibrated to local conditions. But even where proven technologies exist, e.g. soil erosion control measures, minimum tillage, soil potassium testing and irrigation scheduling, adoption has been low. There is a need to better understand and overcome the barriers to adoption. One barrier may be that increases in costs of production are outstripping increases in prices paid for potatoes, leaving less profit to be invested in better management and paving the way for foreign French fry imports to increase their market share. However this alone is not a reason for non-adoption because many technologies offer growers the chance to become more profitable. Other barriers related to grower or industry capacity, skills and knowledge, or methods of extending that knowledge, must also be influencing behaviour.