Mr Hoyle said it was a drive to be more sustainable and environmentally conscious that led to their initial planting.
“We continued each year and fought the challenges and tried to improve the process. There weren’t a lot of organic strawberries available, so it was a good option.
He said organic production of strawberries was quite challenging and they moved the Sunshine Coast operation closer to the Glasshouse Mountains to minimise issues with soil, fruit and leaf diseases.
They also worked closely with entomologists to release a range of beneficial insects to help control pests in the strawberries.
“We now use eight different species including two that control two-spotted mite and some for aphids,” Mr Hoyle said. “We also customised a bug vacuum to control Rutherglen bug and fruit fly.”
He said soil health was a key to successful organic production and they worked on getting the whole balance right throughout the strawberry crop.
“It is so easy to get out of kilter. Organic strawberries are a little bit more complex but once we committed to it, we have found a way.”
While the predatory insects do an excellent job of controlling the pest populations, there has been a need to consider organic insecticides at different times of the season.
Mr Hoyle said the number of products available in the organic industry had continued to expand with grower demand helping companies focus on the industry.
He said Entrust® Organic insecticide, from Corteva Agriscience, was now available in Australia and had provided an excellent option for organic strawberries.
“We use Entrust® as a quick knockdown. We might have a heliothis breakout with a massive egg lay or when fruit fly lay their eggs near or on the edge of the fruit. This is where Entrust® works really well.”
Typically yields from the organic strawberries are 50 per cent of conventionally grown strawberries, with varieties selected for their good root systems and hardiness.
Strawberries usually need to be consumed within seven to ten days of picking and markets include supermarket chains through to the home delivery segment.
“Going forward, the market will drive any expansion of the organic strawberry industry,” Mr Hoyle said. “We will expand as quickly as the market.”
The Australian Organic Industry Farmer of the Year Award was sponsored by Corteva Agriscience.
Horticultural and Insecticide Marketing Manager at Corteva Agriscience, Nick Koch, said the company was pleased to be an integral part of the awards.
“Corteva Agriscience is committed to the organic industry in Australia and globally” he said.
“Entrust® Organic is an example of demand from Australian farmers for an insecticide that could be utilised to control pests within an organic system that is not only effective but is also manufactured in accordance with organic certification requirements. Importantly it is suitable for Integrated Pest Management systems so is an excellent partner to the beneficial insects being deployed.”
“Corteva Agriscience is committed to developing products that meet biological, organic and/or green chemistry classifications and we continue to look for sustainable, alternative solutions to the less desirable products of the past.”
He said Brendan Hoyle and the team at Ashbern Farms were worthy winners of the Farmer of the Year Award.
“Strawberries are a challenging crop to grow and to successfully produce them organically over many years is very commendable.”
Entrust Organic uniquely combines the efficacy of synthetic insecticides with the benefits of biological insect pest control for use in both organic and conventional farming.View now