Pathways to water quality improvements in the Myrtle Creek sub-catchment

With funding from the Queensland Government’s Reef Water Quality Program, Sugar Research Australia (SRA) worked with 54 growers across four sites in the Myrtle Creek sub-catchment to identify and implement practice change opportunities to reduce nitrogen and pesticide losses from sugarcane farms. The project also monitored and evaluated the end-of-paddock water quality impacts of changed practices. Sites changed each year to enable more growers to be involved in the project and to include a greater range of soil types.

The project outcomes support previous research and demonstration results linking practices such as:

  • timing of the application is important to avoid run-off for at least the first 20 days after application, from either rainfall or irrigation
  • incorporation of herbicides and nutrients with irrigation can assist in improving water quality
  • less on, less off—that is, reducing the amount of chemicals applied will lead to less run-off.

The project is also reporting social outcomes and surveyed attitudes, motivations and barriers to change from a selection of project landholders. Approximately three-quarters rated the likelihood of adopting changes with regards to water quality improvements in the next five years as medium to high. In addition, approximately three-quarters rated their understanding of water quality science as medium to high. The main triggers for change were proven benefits, followed by incentives.

Detailed project information is available from the SRA website, including the results of the water quality samples taken during the project. SRA has also produced a series of factsheets that detail the results of the trials.