Funding for research into South West avocado production

Middlesex Orchardist Doug Pow with Lance McGuire (SWCC) in the avocado orchard.

New research into the pollination of avocado trees in the South West Region is soon to be underway thanks to a Smart Farms Grant received by the South West Catchments Council for $510,788.

Pollination of avocados in Western Australia is currently considered to be inadequate due to a lack of suitable pollinators, such as insects. The new research project will identify key pollinators in selected avocado orchards in Manjimup and the Donnybrook/Balingup area. Management practices will then be developed and shared to increase the numbers of pollinators in the orchards, which in turn should lead to higher rates of production.

This exciting new project will use innovative environmental DNA (eDNA) techniques developed at the Curtin University TrEnD lab to identify insect pollinators, discover the extent that they are pollinating the avocado flowers and whether they are pollinating effectively across the entire orchard. Some of the management practices likely to be used include the planting of more habitat for the insects and an improved use of pesticides to reduce negative impacts on insect numbers, resulting in higher fruit quality and more productivity in the industry.

The project, titled ‘Transforming pollinator management using eDNA to improve productivity in avocado orchards in the SW of Western Australia’, will be managed by the South West Catchments Council, with input from Curtin University, the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development, Avocados Australia Limited, who is the peak industry body for the Australian Avocado Industry, and local growers and orchardists.

The grant announcement was made by Minister for Agriculture the Hon Bridget McKenzie on November 22nd. This is the second project soon to begin looking at pollinators to increase crop, fruit and vegetable yields, with the State Government announcing earlier this month that they will be funding a research project into native flies pollinating various crops across WA.

This project is supported by South West Catchments Council through funding from the Australian Government’s National Landcare program.

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