Bush Ban­ter

The Northern Star - Northern New South Wales Rural Weekly - - NEWS - Michael Boland Reef Catch­ments Sus­tain­able Agri­cul­ture co­or­di­na­tor

MACKAY Whit­sun­day cane grow­ers com­mit time and money to im­prove the Great Bar­rier Reef’s wa­ter qual­ity.

The Mackay Whit­sun­day Isaac Sus­tain­able Agri­cul­ture Cane Project is aim­ing to im­prove the qual­ity of wa­ter en­ter­ing the Great Bar­rier Reef la­goon by tar­get­ing re­duc­tions in nu­tri­ent and her­bi­cide loads and fa­cil­i­tat­ing the adop­tion of man­age­ment prac­tice change.

Fund­ing for this project is pro­vided by the Aus­tralian Gov­ern­ment un­der the Reef Trust Phase 3 In­vest­ment Pro­gram.

Led by Reef Catch­ments, this project be­gan in July 2016 and will end in June 2019. The project is fully sub­scribed and has reached its grower par­tic­i­pa­tion tar­get.

Our re­gion’s cane grow­ers are to be com­pli­mented for their com­mit­ment of their own time, re­sources and money to pro­tect the Great Bar­rier Reef.

Some 244 grow­ers, farm­ing 35,587ha of cane, have ac­tively par­tic­i­pated in the project and taken up the op­por­tu­nity to ac­cess $838,000 worth of ma­jor grants to as­sist with equip­ment up­grades that fast-track prac­tice change to im­prove nu­tri­ent and her­bi­cide man­age­ment.

Grow­ers have con­trib­uted a min­i­mum of 60 per cent of their own funds, with Reef Catch­ments pro­vid­ing 40 per cent to a max­i­mum of $15,000.

Ex­am­ples of equip­ment up­grades for which farm­ers have re­ceived grants in­clude:

■ Spray rig up­grades and high-rise trac­tors that re­duce the use of resid­ual her­bi­cide

■ Vari­able rate fer­tiliser con­trollers that tar­get the ac­tual yield on in­di­vid­ual cane blocks, e.g. late har­vest and late ra­toons.

Each grower has also had the op­tion to ac­cess a small grant of $1500 to as­sist with pur­chase of up­grades to spray equip­ment, con­duct soil tests, EM Map­ping and G-Dots.

Ex­ten­sion and plan­ning for nu­tri­ent and her­bi­cide man­age­ment has been pro­vided to each grower via lo­cal ser­vice providers MAPS, PCPSL, Far­ma­cist and Soil and Land Sur­veys.

Train­ing, work­shops and field days have been held to sup­port the project by pro­vid­ing prac­ti­cal ap­pli­ca­tions for im­proved nu­tri­ent and her­bi­cide ap­pli­ca­tion strate­gies.

A se­lec­tion of grower case stud­ies are avail­able on the Reef Catch­ments’ web­site.

The Reef Trust 3 project is a col­lab­o­ra­tion of grow­ers, in­dus­try, Reef Catch­ments and the Aus­tralian Gov­ern­ment work­ing to­gether to im­prove pro­duc­tiv­ity and en­sure the sus­tain­abil­ity of the cane in­dus­try.

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