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29 January 2018

Battling the Elements- The Power of Soil Fumigation


Background


About Austchilli
Founded in 1995, Austchilli is the largest chilli company in Australia and are leaders in the food manufacturing industry. Founder David De Paoli drew on his experience in small crops and his knowledge as a qualified mechanical engineer as well as his passion for innovation to deliver fresh chilli nationally and aseptic purees throughout the world.

The company is a privately owned, vertically integrated farming agribusiness that has been adding value to customers for over 20 years. The business encompasses three generations of sustainable farming practices along with state of the art business management systems. It supplies multi-national food and beverage companies globally and, with its unique processing and business approach, its fresh chilli varieties and vegetable, herb and chilli puree products are now supplied and in demand in the Australian and global market.

About A-Gas Rural
A-Gas Rural, part of A‑Gas Australia, specialises in the supply of fumigation chemicals, application equipment and services to the agricultural sector. The company has 25 years of experience in all facets of fumigation service and practice, focusing on supplying sustainable alternatives to the ozone depleting, Methyl Bromide. A-Gas Rural also supplies fumigation equipment and monitoring devices, as well as designing and implementing fumigation systems.

Challenge

Austchilli was aware of a soil issue that was affecting its plant productivity. Fruit losses were as high as 85% and farmers found that the quality of the fruit picked was low and only useful for processing. This made the economics of growing very poor.

Austchilli approached A-Gas Rural to identify the specific cause of the damage and for a solution. By using its soil DNA testing services, A-Gas Rural identified that the Austchilli farm was suffering from fungal infections in its soil that severely damaged the chilli plants in and around the fruiting set.

“We found that the pest and disease pressure was critically damaging the crops and immediate action was required,” comments Matt Stein, General Manager, A-Gas Rural, “The team assessed the most suitable solution for Austchilli to ensure that crop production was disrupted as little as possible.”

Solution

Once the specific issues had been identified, A-Gas Rural began soil fumigation to see if the conditions could be improved. The ground was fumigated with Telone C-60 using a plastic laying bed forming fumigation rig. The fumigation period lasted two weeks and then the plastic rows were planted with chilli seedlings in early September 2017.

Results

By the second week of September, the fumigated bed seedlings were healthier and more advanced.  The untreated seedlings were starting to show signs of fungal attack and ill thrift.

The fumigation delivered a reduction of 85% in wastage with yields increasing by 2.7 times. The disease levels of the plants had been dramatically reduced with more fruit going to the fresh market than previously experienced. 

In the last two months of 2017, Bundaberg (where the Austchilli farm is located) received its annual rainfall in two storms that followed each other closely. This rainfall meant that soils became water logged and flooded to a depth of 20cm in some areas. This flooding coupled with high temperatures allowed fungal diseases to multiply and spread very quickly. The fumigated ground was able to resist the spread of these fungal diseases with minimal plant deaths or damage.

Conclusion

A-Gas Rural’s soil fumigation products enabled Austchilli to maximise their production when other growers, who had not fumigated, were exposed to large crop losses.

“We are extremely proud of the results of this project, the hard work of all involved and the results achieved for the Austchilli team,” comments Matt Stein, “The results show the rapid turnaround in the quality of the crop production and even exceeded expectations by enabling more Austchilli product to go to market than previously experienced.”

A-Gas Rural’s soil fumigation products have allowed Austchilli to maintain its position as a leading Australian food manufacturer.