Woolworths supports avocado farmers in their fight against root rot

Simpson Farms and Woolworths, QLD

With funding provided through the Woolworths Fresh Food Future program, vital research in is being carried out in Queensland to investigate the use of organic compounds to improve soil health and combat diseases that challenge Australian avocado growers.

Simpson Farms is Australia’s biggest avocado grower with 180,000 trees producing 11,000 tonnes of avocados and supplying Woolworths with around two million trays, per year.

The grant of $55,000 is being used by Simpson Farms to research how to reduce the industry’s reliance on synthetic chemical fungicides and assess the efficacy of organic molasses and humic acid compounds. This will not only improve the environment, trees and fruit but will help combat pytophthora root rot, a serious disease problem affecting the avocado industry in Australia.

This disease kills feeder roots and slows the tree’s nutrient and water uptake, resulting in lower yields of smaller, poor quality fruit. However, learning from the experiences of local sugarcane and tomato growers, who have long recognised the benefits of amending soil with molasses and other organic additives to combat root parasites, this could soon change.

With the hope of setting up a more natural biological system, the project aims to combat microbial root rot and improve soil structure. For the farm, another beneficial outcome is to cut the use of synthetic fertilizers by 10% and reduce chemical weed sprays, tractor use and irrigation pump time, which should lead to a smaller carbon footprint.

Chad Simpson, the company agronomist, says ‘a smaller carbon footprint for us equates to better production efficiencies, lower costs and higher returns.’ As a leader in the Fresh Food Future program, the work on Simpson Farm highlights the importance of sustainable farming, allowing industries to expand while working together with their surrounding environments.