HORTICULTURE growers are being urged to contribute to the creation of a high-tech mapping tool.
The National Protected Cropping Map will capture the location of commercial, polytunnels, shadehouses, glasshouses and permanent nets across Australia.
Hort Innovation head of R&D Byron De Kock said no comprehensive national protected cropping map currently existed.
The new initiative would significantly help industries to improve biosecurity preparedness and natural disaster response efforts, he said.
"A concerning knowledge gap of most Australian agricultural industries is a lack of understanding of the distribution and area of individual crops," he said.
"Knowing where crops are located supports improved response to biosecurity incursions including the establishment of exclusion zones and the coordination of on-ground surveillance, and for quantifying the area of crops affected following a natural disaster."
The map - which is being developed with the support of Protected Cropping Australia, Future Food Systems CRC and Greater Sydney and North Coast Local Land Services - is said to also help growers with production planning.
Protected Cropping Australia deputy chair Matthew Plunkett said not having an accurate measure of production area could result in highly inaccurate pre-harvest yield forecasts, potentially causing poor forward selling estimates for both domestically and overseas markets.
"Identifying the location of specific farming systems also provides essential information around value-chains, traceability, transport and market accessibility," Mr Plunkett said.
University of New England project lead Professor Andrew Robson said a similar tool that was created by UNE's Applied Agricultural Remote Sensing Centre with Hort Innovation was already being used by many tree crop industries, providing a useful foundation for this Protected Cropping Area Map.
"This map - built via the integration of industry data, image analytics, ground validation and citizen science - meets Australian mapping standards, is freely available and respects growers' privacy by not including any personal grower or crop information," Professor Robson said.
"This exciting output and collaboration will again raise Australian horticulture as international leaders of the adoption of emerging technologies."
Future Food Systems CEO David Eyre said the strategic initiative would greatly increase industry understanding of the scope and pattern of current production and future opportunities for growth.
The protected cropping map is available online via desktop or mobile. The draft map is scheduled for completion in 2023. However, users can go on the Protected Cropping Systems Survey site and see progress at any time.
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