Over 160 pineapple growers and industry supply chain members converged on the Sunshine Coast in July to share knowledge and celebrate at the industry’s annual Pineapple Field Days.

While the pineapple industry, like horticulture generally, is dealing with its fair share of challenges right now, there is a strong sense of cohesion between growers and a shared commitment to staying at the cutting edge of technology and best practice.

Attracting keen interest this year was the implementation of a farm-wide bioreactor – a joint project between Growcom, the Department of Environment and Science (DES), Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (DAF) and Healthy Land and Water.

Over the years, the Australian pineapple industry has implemented and trialled new practices to help keep nutrients in the soil where the crops need them.

However large duration, high intensity, or unseasonal rainfall events cause soil water drainage which rapidly removes nitrogen from the crop root zone to shallow ground water tables. To address the issue of nitrate transfer from farms into the surrounding aquatic environment, denitrification bioreactors are being constructed.

The scientific goal behind the bioreactor is to achieve de-nitrification. The bioreactor creates a home for naturally occurring bacteria, which use the woodchips as a food source and due to the anerobic – underwater – situation, they use the nitrate in the water to respire or breath. The bacteria convert the nitrate in the water into normal nitrogen gas.

Australian Pineapple industry operators continue to show commitment to making improvements in the way in which they farm, so that they can demonstrate to their consumers that they are striving towards more sustainable farming practices.

Other farm trials and demonstrations on show at the Field Days included pineapple plant material collectors, a geopolymer soil erosion demonstration trial, precision boom sprayers, alternative fumigation application methods, an overview of Favco’s pineapple varieties and demonstration of a robotic plant material size grader developed by LYRO Robotics.

At the industry Gala Dinner, young growers Rian Pace, Jeffrey Pace, Hayden Marshall and Caitlin Marshall from Pace Farming in North Queensland jointly received the Rudy Wassman Award, recognising their achievements as the next generation of growers.

Garth Sanewski from the DAF was awarded the Col Scott Award for his outstanding contribution to the Australian pineapple industry.

Garth has worked in the industry for over 40 years and is recognised as a leading pineapple agronomist internationally. Garth’s many career achievements include breeding three commercial pineapple varieties – Aus-Jubilee, Aus-Carnival and Aus-Festival; the publication of the second edition of the international CABI book ‘The pineapple – botany production and uses’; and developing genetic markers for out-of-season flowing, phytophthora resistance and smooth leaves – all world leading.

Also recognised at the Gala Dinner were former Growcom staff members Janine Clark and Rowena Beveridge who both received Industry Appreciation Awards – Janine for her invaluable support to the industry around all things biosecurity, pest management and chemicals and Rowena for bringing the industry together to put the focus on sustainable farming practices.

Australian pineapple regional representatives – Courtney Thies, Jake Brooks, Scott Maxwell and Ben Stokes – were also presented with Industry Appreciation Awards in recognition of their ongoing support and dedication.  

Thank you to this year’s sponsors, without your support the Pineapple Field Days would be impossible to hold: Favco, Golden Circle, Smyth Financial, Agrichem, TriCal Australia, Tropical Pines, Mineral Mulch, RDO Equipment, Opal ANZ, Elders, ATC Group, Nutrien Ag Solutions, FW Agronomy, Imtrade Crop Science, Swancorp, Australian Retirement Trust, Moreton Bay Regional Council, EE Muir & Sons, Queensland Farmers’ Federation, Harvest Trail Information Services, Organic Crop Protectants, Bio Organic Sustainable Solutions (BOSS), Qld Organics, Agripower, Fair Farms, Hort360 and LYRO Robotics. A special thank you also to the Member for Glass House Andrew Powell for once again supporting the industry.