31 January 2024

R&D to the fore at Australian Citrus Congress

From production techniques to post-harvest quality, new varietals and export growth – the inaugural Australian Citrus Congress will focus on research and development (R&D) projects and outcomes transforming the citrus industry.

Hosted by Citrus Australia, the congress will be held at the picturesque Novotel Sunshine Coast Resort, Queensland, from 5-7 March 2024.

The centrepiece of the event will be a multi-track conference program and trade show-style exhibition, taking place on 6-7 March.

Citrus Australia has worked alongside Hort Innovation to develop the conference program.

Hort Innovation chief executive Brett Fifield said the new-look event will provide valuable R&D updates to all citrus industry members, highlighting the work that’s being done to ensure a profitable and sustainable future for the sector.

“As the Principal R&D Partner of the Australian Citrus Congress, Hort Innovation is looking forward to meeting with the citrus industry and being able to highlight the impactful work being done to support citrus growers,” Fifield explained.

“The event will also be an opportunity for us to better understand the current challenges facing the industry, so that we can continue supporting it through future strategic levy investments.”

Fifield will speak in the opening keynote session on day one of the conference program (6 March). The session is focused on macro trends impacting profitability across the citrus sector, with Fifield to highlight the depth and breadth of R&D investments being made through the Citrus Levy Fund.

Leaders of several Citrus Levy-funded projects will present across the two-day program.

David Monks of the New South Wales Department of Primary Industries (NSW DPI) will moderate a session on citrus varieties, sponsored by Victorian Citrus Farms. Along with presenting insights from his own work leading the Evaluation of New Citrus Varieties (CT22000) project, Monks will be joined on stage by global experts in varietal development.

This includes Malcolm Smith of the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, who will discuss the development and direction of new citrus varieties in Australia and internationally, drawing on his experience delivering the levy-funded Australian Cirtus Breeding Program (CT21001).

A session on the post-harvest sector will examine advancements that are helping produce high quality and safe food for domestic and international consumers. The session, sponsored by Steritech, will be moderated by John Golding of NSW DPI, who leads the levy-funded Citrus Postharvest Program (CT19003).

“International speakers, local experts and all the latest industry updates – this session will deliver a comprehensive overview of what’s happening in post-harvest and fruit quality management,” said Golding.

“Speakers will discuss current and new post-harvest fungicides, developments in storage and maintaining quality through domestic and export supply chains.”

A grower-focused production session will home in on the correlation between improved fruit quality and increased profitability. This session will include presentations from renowned soil health and tree nutrition expert Graeme Sait and NSW DPI’s Tahir Khurshid, leader of the levy-funded Evaluation of New Rootstocks (CT22001) project.

With Australian growers on track to produce over 1.2m tonnes of citrus annually by 2028, export development is an area of priority for the industry. Citrus Australia’s General Manager of Market Development, David Daniels, will discuss opportunities to grow sales in both established and emerging markets, based on his work under the Citrus Market Development, Market Access and Quality (CT18002) project.

The conference program will round out with an R&D ideation session, which will encourage delegate participation.

Citrus Australia chief executive Nathan Hancock said the conversation will centre on what the next ten years look like for the Australian citrus sector.

“As a whole, the industry has faced some significant challenges over the last few years,” said Hancock. “We’re starting to see signs of prosperity again but we’d be naive to think more challenges won’t come our way.

“Citrus businesses must continue to adapt to the changing playing field in order to be profitable in the future.

“Through the Australian Citrus Congress, Citrus Australia aims to provide content and networking opportunities for growers to take home some ideas to adapt in their businesses and on their farms.”

For more information on the Australian Citrus Congress, including the conference program, speaker profiles and registration details, visit the official event website: https://citrusaustralia.com.au/acc2024/ 

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