The region’s leading horticultural advocacy group FNQ Growers wants clarity from the Queensland Government on the status of leaf and soil testing facilities.
FNQ Growers Chair Joe Moro has called on the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries to have laboratories for leaf tissue and soil testing based back in Far North Queensland.
“Our region’s growers are at the forefront of innovation and have diversified into a number of different crops over the years.” Mr Moro said.
“Critical to the establishment of new industries, and the long-term viability of well-established crops, is the availability of infrastructure and services that support horticultural growers, this includes leaf and soil testing,
“We believe the absence of these facilities puts our growers at a significant disadvantage and could hinder opportunities for our growers and the region generally, to contribute to the state’s long- term advantage as a premier fresh food producer.”
Mr Moro said that even though soil testing left the Far North quite a few years ago the issue has resurfaced “Due to the industry now being so big in FNQ, people feel that some sort of facility should be based locally.” he said
”We a billion-dollar-plus industry in FNQ and we employ over 35,000 people a lot of growers are asking why don’t we have these services locally.”
At the moment all soil and leaf testing is sent to Brisbane which can take weeks for results to be returned.
“We would like facilities in either Mareeba or South Johnstone; this would also help farmers in Lakeland and Georgetown as well.” Mr Moro said
Local Farmer Max Srhoj said that the couple of weeks that it takes to get results from Brisbane can mean the difference between a successful crop or losing an entire crop.
“By getting results quickly means we can save the crop by putting in whatever trace elements are needed but if you have to wait over a week, it could be too late.” he said
“By the time you get the results, the problem could be too far gone, if it was local we could have results in a day or two,
“They keep saying we are the food bowl of Queensland but when it comes to research and testing we’ve got nothing.”
A spokesperson from The Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (DAF) said they have not provided routine soil and leaf nutrient analyses since the 1990s.
“It is more efficient and economical to use commercial laboratories for these tests and DAF itself uses these commercial service providers to have soil and leaf samples analysed.”
“The Queensland Government recognises the importance of the horticultural industry in Far North Queensland and maintains a strong presence.”