INNOVATIVE growing techniques have delivered delicious pumpkins to Australian dinner plates in the recent cooler months and provided financial success for North Queensland producers.
Mareeba-based Department of Agriculture Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF) extension horticulturist Geoff Dickinson said producers had taken advantage of the region’s mild, dry winters to supply national and local markets with jarrahdale, jap and butternut varieties during this peak winter season.
“Over winter, roast and mash pumpkin and hot pumpkin soup were very popular meals,” Mr Dickinson said.
“Extension staff from my department worked closely with producers to ensure they have the latest information about irrigation, growing schedules and mulch systems to ensure top-quality crops and yields.”
Mr Dickinson said in recent years Tableland pumpkin growers had embraced new precision growing technologies.
“This has helped to reduce costs, increase yields and produce a consistent, high-quality product.”
“Many of these top pumpkin growers are part of the Cairns Highlands Green (CHG) growing group.”
CHG co-ordinates staggered picking, packing and marketing times for each grower to maximise efficiencies and ensure a regular supply of quality pumpkins to Australian markets from late August to November.
Mr Dickinson said disposing of plastic mulch film at the end of each crop cycle had become a problem for growers, but DAFF had come up with a solution.
“Successful DAFF trials in vegetable crops in the Bowen and Bundaberg regions confirmed the success of biodegradable plastic mulch products, which break down completely through microbial activity after about six months leaving no toxic residues in the soil,” he said.
“Another innovation is oxydegradable plastic mulch, which breaks down through exposure to oxygen over a specified period.
“This puts an end to the environmental and financial issues in removing and disposing of the discarded plastic.”
Mr Dickinson said DAFF trials of both biodegradable and oxydegradable mulch products were established this year at four pumpkin and vegetable properties at Mareeba.
“These degradable mulches should work well in vegetable production systems in the far north,” Mr Dickinson said.
“The greater cost of degradable mulch products, as compared with polyethylene plastic products, has impeded greater uptake.
“With increasing demand, we would expect the price of degradable mulch to reduce.
“Four companies are now producing biodegradable or oxydegradable mulch products and prices are dropping.”
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