Protected cropping: Can it save Australia's salad and fruit bowls from harsh weather?

When lettuce prices jumped to $10 off the back of extreme weather in New South Wales and Queensland, it sent a shockwave through the nation, but some farmers in the flood zone were left relatively unscathed because they grow their produce undercover. Now experts say protected cropping could be the key to successful cultivation and getting farmers back to planting after extreme weather.

Protected cropping is more than just greenhouses, says Paul Gauthier, a professor of protected cropping with the Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation. He says there are three different types of protective cropping. "It can be a high tunnel that protects the crop from the weather, it can be inside a greenhouse, or it can be in a structure where it is fully indoors, and the plants never see the sunshine."

Protected cropping allows farmers to control the environment of the plants they grow, including the temperature, water, and soil in some systems that use hydroponics. Professor Gauthier says it can protect plants from the negative effects of weather.

"By putting everything indoors and controlling your inputs, you can start predicting what the outcome is going to be, and your plants are protected," he said. "In the case of a storm event, as long as your building can resist the storm, then all of your plants will be safe, and you can continue to produce food."



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