Home' Smart Farmer : August 2010 Contents August 2010
with ZANNIE FLANAGAN, CEO Adelaide Showground
Future of food on political agenda
THE country is in election mode and if ever
there was a good time to get a point across it is
For once, the future of agriculture and food
security are on the agenda and receiving some
The issues have been brewing for some time.
The loss of productive agricultural land in peri-
urban regions through urban sprawl and the
foreign buy-up of our agricultural assets by
overseas investors are the big ticket issues that
are being seen as a serious threat to our future
Importantly and surprisingly, politicians from
across all parties are joining the debate.
Julia Gillard's concern with the idea of a big
Australia raised the issue of urban sprawl, but
she didn't take the opportunity to link the issue
with food security.
But Greens Senator Christine Milne has writ-
ten an excellent article outlining some of the
relevant issues and the New South Wales
Liberal Senator Bill Heffernan has added his
voice to the debate with a call for the establish-
ment of a national register of farm asset sales
to overseas interests.
Politicians are finally getting the message
that unless agricultural land is safeguarded,
water is secured and our farmers are able to
make a decent living for their efforts, our future
food security will be put at risk.
Hopefully, with growing community concern,
the electorate will force the political parties to
develop policies that address these critical
The Victorian government has been at the
forefront of these issues for a number of years.
In 2004, the Department of Primary Industries
in Victoria undertook national research which
indicated, according to the AFMA website, "that
Australian farmers markets generate an approx-
imate turnover of $40 million annually with an
estimated net annual benefit to communities
across Australia of around $80m."
Consequently, in 2005 they promised that a re-
elected Labor Government would provide $2m
to support the development of farmers markets
as a community based option for farmers to
deliver their products directly to consumers. This
promise has resulted in funding for a number of
key projects including the development of a
farmers market authentication system and sup-
port for an association project officer to assist
in developing the sector.
Next week, Victorian Members of Parliament,
George Seitz (committee chairman) and Don
Nardella, in their capacity as members of the
Outer Suburban/Interface Services and
Development Committee, will visit Victor Harbor,
Willunga and the Adelaide Showground
Farmers' Markets to investigate, among other
things, the successful South Australian member-
based market model pioneered at Willunga and
now used by all the markets above and the
Adelaide Hills FM to provide them with a sound
The terms of reference for this inquiry include:
• To investigate the history and growth
potential of this form of retail/agricultural activ-
ity and the demand created for products
sourced from interface and peri-urban areas.
• To examine the structure, codes of practice,
strategic planning and economic viability of
farmers markets and any barriers or impedi-
ments to their development and long-term
• To examine how farmers' markets can con-
tribute to increasing the viability of smallscale
farming enterprises in the interface and peri-
urban municipalities, especially in the designat-
ed 'green wedge' zoned land.
It is clear that the Victorians are taking the
threats to their agriculture sector seriously, and
they are also looking to maximise the opportu-
nities for the sector as well.
Finally, from the agribusiness point of view,
the ABC's Matt Crittenden's two part back-
ground briefing program entitled Selling the
Farm takes a good look at the questions that
are being raised about foreign land ownership
with the two-part series asking if Australia risks
losing control of its food resources and does
Australia need a food security plan?
With all this attention, one can only hope
that inspired and intelligent policy will emerge
from the debate.
In the meantime, make a difference every day
and buy local. It's better for everyone.
HERE is an understand-
ing of the importance of
trace minerals in plant
nutrition, and now most tests
include at least five micronu-
trients. However, there still
remains a lack of understand-
ing about the importance of
micronutrients to the microbe
If, for example, you can get a partnership fir-
ing between mycorrhizal fungi and a free-liv-
ing, nitrogen-fixing bacteria called
Azotobacter, then you have hit pay dirt! This
'perfect pair' will work together to deliver
nitrogen, phosphorus, calcium and zinc and
the enhanced supply of these important min-
erals will help create a thriving plant that will
then feed the army of organisms responsible
for the delivery of other minerals (potassium
solubilisers, iron reducing organisms, man-
ganese reducing organisms, etc).
However, if one little trace mineral is not
present in your soil this 'perfect partnership'
will fail. This trace mineral is molybdenum
and most soils are lacking this critical key. If
you don't have enough molybdenum present
you will always need more nitrogen from a
bag.Some of the key nitrogen management
strategies in biological agriculture involve sta-
bilisation of nitrogen inputs
(to slow the conversion to
nitrates), the use of 'ideal'
application rates of applied
nitrogen to avoid unwanted
conversion and the optimisa-
tion of supplementary N sup-
ply from soil biology.
However, there is a critically
important additional step required and once
again it requires the presence of molybdenum.
The plant processes involving the conver-
sion of ammonium nitrogen into protein, take
place in the roots. This always involves energy,
so the roots message the above-ground plant
to increase photosynthesis and thereby boost
glucose delivery down below. This is one of
the reasons for the greening effect associated
with application of ammonium fertilisers.
Nitrates do not store in the roots awaiting con-
version. They move into the leaf where there is
a yield-sapping procedure required to convert
them to amines, amino acids and finally, pro-
tein. This process, involving 10 per cent of the
plant's net glucose production, requires an
enzyme called the nitrate reductase enzyme.
This enzyme is dependant upon sulfur and,
most importantly, molybdenum.
• Need to know more?
Bio-Tech Organics on 0883808554 or John Norton
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