Construction begins on CCC Blueberry Research Facility

16 September 2019

NSW Minister for Agriculture Adam Marshall, Wollongbar Institute Director Mark Hickey and DPI DG Scott Hansen turn the first sod on construction of new DPI Wollongbar Blueberry Research Facility

The NSW Minister for Agriculture, Adam Marshall, has turned the first sod in the construction of a state of the art Blueberry Research Facility funded through the Clean Coastal Catchments (CCC) project.

The $300,000 facility being built at the NSW Government’s Wollongbar Primary Industries Institute will provide crucial research to assist the NSW blueberry industry in reducing expensive fertiliser wastage and nutrient run off into coastal waterways.

The research team at Wollongbar will be led by Dr Sophie Parks, who has extensive expertise in working with blueberries, and greenhouse and hydroponic crops.

“NSW’s blueberry industry is expanding rapidly and currently there is a lack of reliable data and information on appropriate fertiliser application rates for this crop,” said Dr Parks

“Improved fertiliser management will reduce nutrient loss from farms in water runoff while also helping to protect our waterways and fisheries,” said Dr Parks.

The Blueberry Research Facility will supply growers with scientifically tested formulations and recommendations regarding the timing and amount of fertiliser application that more accurately match crop demand for nutrients.

Two ‘Spanish Tunnel’ style greenhouses will be erected on the site along with a fertigation system (an irrigation system that also supplies fertiliser) to supply 240 potted blueberry plants.

Dr Parks’ team will develop recommendations for fertiliser application rates in Southern Highbush blueberries (one of the most commonly grown blueberry types in NSW), comparing fertiliser rates applied through hydroponic drippers to determine the most efficient and effective application regime.

While the greenhouse research will develop nutrient recommendations specifically for blueberries in potted substrate, three in-field trials will also be monitored in a partnership with local growers, to compare the nutrient requirements for commercially grown crops in soil.

“For agriculture to continue to thrive on the north coast and elsewhere, research into appropriate nitrogen application levels in sensitive coastal environments will be key in providing the evidence needed to maintain industry’s reputation in the community,” said Luke Jewell, who leads the Nutrient Land Use Change component of the CCC project.

The DPI Wollongbar Blueberry Research Facility is funded by the CCC project which is an initiative of the NSW Government’s Marine Estate Management Strategy.

For detailed information about research at the CCC Blueberry Research facility, contact Dr Sophie Parks, Senior Research Scientist (Plant Physiology) on 0419 198 295.