Nat­u­ral pro­cesses help pro­tect plants

North East & Goulburn Murray Farmer - - Frost Control -

PROD­UCTS de­vel­oped by Aus­tralasian re­search could play a vi­tal role in pro­tect­ing crops dur­ing the pre­dicted El Nino event.

Ac­cord­ing to key re­searcher and pro­ducer of Ec­tol, John McKay, his com­pany’s low-cost prod­uct, Ec­tol Pro­tect and Grow, utilises plants’ nat­u­ral pro­tec­tion pro­cesses.

“The prod­uct can be sprayed across large crop­ping and hor­ti­cul­tural ar­eas, po­ten­tially sav­ing the mil­lions of dol­lars in­vested in crops of­ten lost in chal­leng­ing weather events,” he said.

Univer­sity of South Queens­land cli­ma­tol­o­gist Roger Stone is warn­ing that Aus­tralia should brace it­self for drier con­di­tions as an El Nino weather pat­tern looks in­creas­ingly likely.

Mr McKay said that on the front­line and most at risk are crop­ping farm­ers and hor­ti­cul­tural grow­ers.

“This Aus­tralasian prod­uct has now been proven in a num­ber of sci­en­tific re­search projects and is now used on mul­ti­ple farms, grow­ing a broad va­ri­ety of crops.

“It has been shown to pro­tect crops against frost, cold shock and heat, im­proves plant health and crop yields, and will not dam­age flow­ers or crops,” Mr McKay said.

Mr McKay was first ap­proached by farm­ers about 10 years ago af­ter they lost con­sec­u­tive crops from frost. “They were close to des­per­ate. “These highly ex­pe­ri­enced, worldlead­ing farm­ers were look­ing for low cost pro­tec­tion, but un­happy bankers had elim­i­nated any con­sid­er­a­tion of fund­ing wind ma­chines, he­li­copters for spray­ing, or over­head sprin­klers.

“The big ques­tion we asked was why can a cab­bage sur­vive un­der snow, but a grape vine, tree crops or even ce­real crops strug­gle to re­sist a frost?”

This led to in­ves­tiga­tive re­search, prod­uct de­vel­op­ment and sub­stan­tial tri­als in­clud­ing the in­put of some ofAus­tralia’s most es­teemed sci­en­tists, in­clud­ing Colin Young, Mike Walker and Sally Bound from the Univer­sity of Tas­ma­nia.

“We re­searched plants that could sur­vive this ma­jor frost stress event and de­ter­mined the bio­chem­i­cals that af­forded the plant pro­tec­tion,” Mr McKay said.

“These nat­u­rally oc­cur­ring plant prod­ucts are present in all pho­to­syn­the­sis­ing plants, but to vary­ing de­grees, so the chal­lenge was to ex­tract these bio­chem­i­cals from high pro­duc­ers and ap­ply them to the more frost sen­si­tive plants.”

Plants with high con­cen­tra­tions of these pro­tec­tive bio­chem­i­cals in­clude seaweeds and spe­cialised ter­res­trial plants.

The range of the bio­chem­i­cals in­cludes plant growth pro­motants, en­zymes, com­plex sug­ars and min­er­als.

These ma­te­ri­als ei­ther di­rectly pro­tect plant cells or stim­u­late the plant to pro­duce its own pro­tec­tive ma­te­ri­als.

“Ec­tol Pro­tect and Grow ‘has in­cor­po­rated these di­verse ma­te­ri­als, and con­ducted many crop tri­als to de­ter­mine the ap­pli­ca­tion pro­to­cols, and is now be­ing reg­u­larly used for frost and heat stress in tree crops, vines, ce­real crops, field crops, pas­ture and fod­der crops,” Mr McKay said.

“Ec­tol should be con­sid­ered a low-cost tool in frost con­trol and stress min­imi­sa­tion, which has saved many mil­lions of dol­lars of farm­ers’ in­come in Aus­tralia and New Zealand in all but the most ex­treme weather events.

“As a Vic­to­rian farmer ex­plained, he had in­vested half a mil­lion dol­lars into his crop, so spend­ing a few dol­lars on pro­tec­tion made sense,” he said.

PROVEN PRO­TEC­TION: Mer­rigum grower Jimmy Singh talks frost pro­tec­tion with Ec­tol’s Rus­sel Speed.

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