AgriFutures Ginger Program researcher spotlight: Zane Nicholls

19.03.20

Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries Agribusiness Development Officer, Zane Nicholls has been working with the Australian ginger industry for the past seven years to support the sustainability, growth and prosperity of the industry. AgriFutures Australia spoke with Zane to learn about his current project “Chemical Minor Use Permit Research” funded by AgriFutures Ginger Program.

Above: Zane Nicholls with the GEC Implementation team

The Australian ginger industry is a world leader in producing and bringing food safe quality ginger to the market and controlling pest and disease is paramount to producing high-quality ginger. Zane’s project aims to establish and deliver ongoing research and chemical registration process to enable Australian ginger growers access to pest and disease management controls in a timely and controlled environment. This includes the preparation and submission of industry wide minor use permit applications to ensure growers have access to the ‘best practice’ chemical controls available to manage pest and disease.

Why is this research important?

As new pests or diseases are identified, or animals and plants develop resistance to existing technologies, access to safe and effective agricultural chemicals becomes critical to the success of rural industries, including the ginger industry. While this is critical food safety must be considered.

The previous ‘Extension and Coordination Program’ introduced a food safety and quality program, Freshcare Food Safety and Quality Program, to the ginger industry. The Freshcare Food Safety and Quality program taught growers new methods of assessing the food safety and quality control performance of their business while strengthening the industries ‘food safe, quality ginger’ credentials.

An important part of this food safety program is the management of the minor use permits for chemical control of diseases and plant pests. Maintaining currency of minor use chemical permits is essential to ensure industry have access to best practice chemical controls for their pest and disease pressures.

This minor use permit program underpins the current Ginger Extension Coordination projects Food Safety and Quality Program’ seen to be critical in the promotion and growth of the industry and its markets.

 

Why or how did you get involved in this project?

I have been working with the ginger industry for the past seven years. Initially by research focused on reducing nitrous oxide emissions by implementing improved fertiliser and soil carbon management options for the industry. These improvements have transformed the fertiliser management practices employed by industry and increased conventional yields by a minimum of 15%. Most recently I was project manager for the successful AgriFutures project Ginger Development and Extension Program [PRJ-010755] which finished in August 2019. While fulfilling this role an opportunity presented to submit an application to manage the Minor Use Permit Program which I gratefully accepted.

How will this research benefit the ginger industry? Are there any learnings beyond this industry?

Retaining currency of existing permits is non-negotiable for levy payers to meet the present industry food safety and quality standards, and their obligations outlined in the industry Code of Conduct.

The industry have a unanimous goal to increase the national production of ginger to 12,000 tonnes per annum while maintaining profitable farm gate prices. The most recent data estimates annual production was over 9,000 tonnes.

To achieve industry aspirations it is critical that the Minimum Use Permit program remain current, and continues to trial new products that offer improved controls. Further, the program must test new or innovative methods to improve chemical delivery.

This Program will continue to support the ‘Food Safe Quality Ginger’ credentials AgriFutures Australia research has attained to date, and to ensure growers are provided with best practice chemicals at their disposal to counter pest and disease pressures in line with APVMA legislation.

What’s the best piece of professional/career advice you’ve ever been given?

There are a few things I have picked up along the way.

  • Take nothing for granted and remain attentive to farmers’ needs.
  • If you’re unsure ask plenty of questions remembering no question is foolish.
  • A robust experimental design is the key to gather meaningful data, without it you cannot prove if there are any differences, or provide insightful recommendations to direct future research.

Media Enquiries:

Lauren Sharkey, AgriFutures Australia, Manager, Communications & Capacity Building

lauren.sharkey@agrifutures.com.au | 02 6923 6916 | 0409 966 182