Water talk short on hort thought | OPINION

Water talk short on hort thought | OPINION


Horticulture suffers under drought and needs to be considered.



THERE has been some stuff falling from the sky in various areas of the country.

Unfortunately, it's not rain.

Southern states have watched as snow has rolled into areas which aren't known as skiing destinations.

But the larger, less exciting story (in terms of headlines at least) going on in the background for many areas, is drought.

It now sweeps across every state and territory to some degree.


Horticulture crops have a curious relationship with water.

It seems those in the sector, be it field vegetable production, protected cropping, tropical fruit orchards or whatever, have long been funding research into more efficient irrigation methods.

Reports have shown tree crops deliver the most bang for buck in terms of water efficiency.

Could the rest of agriculture be getting a bit jealous of this? Is this why horticulture hasn't generally been given a look in when it comes to drought funding discussions?

Suffering livestock naturally come to mind when dry times are brought up, with good reason.

Living creatures need looking after and that becomes increasingly difficult when water and grass become scarce.

Horticulture suffers as well, though it's not as likely to get a run in the mainstream press.

The Queensland Drought Program Review released in July recognised producers in industries other than extensive livestock production have for too long been ignored in terms of the assistance offered by government.

That's a positive step forward, for Qld producers at least.

Growcom chief executive officer, David Thomson, said the Review could not have come sooner.

"Fruit and vegetable growers are no less affected by this devastating drought than any other primary producer. It's time drought policy and programs became more equitable," he said.

As the profile of horticulture, particularly tree crops, has grown and attracted serious investment money, all of sudden it's on the radar of other more established ag sectors.

A report from water market adviser Aither, commissioned by the Victorian government to investigate the pressures on supply and demand in the connected Murray system found the boom in permanent plantation nut crops is driving water demand up.

This became a big talking point because water may become unaffordable for the highly political industries of rice, dairy and cotton.

Based on the Bureau of Meteorology's grim spring outlook, water is only going to get tighter this summer, so get set for a rise in these sorts of irrigation arguments.

Horticulture, from all perspectives, appears to be well placed to make a case for its incredibly efficient water use compared to other industries.

It's about time it had a seat at the drought discussion table.


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