Protecting our chemicals for the future through the accelerated adoption of best management practices

The Protecting our Chemicals for the Future through the Accelerated Adoption of Best Management Practices project worked with local sugarcane farmers in the Wet Tropics to increase their uptake of best management practices relating to chemical use. This was achieved through increased engagement of growers in the science that helps explain the risk of chemical loss to local waterways. The project was completed in 2019 and was co-funded by the Queensland Government’s Reef Water Quality Program, Sugar Research Australia, Bayer Crop Science and Nufarm.

From 2016 to 2019, the project worked with more than 200 farmers managing a total of 2,885 hectares in the Mulgrave, Tully and South Johnstone region to improve sugarcane practices. Farmers changed their practices with regards to herbicide selection and application timing, technique and amounts, which will all have positive water quality outcomes.

Two very simple, but far reaching principles have been adopted as a result of the project: ’Less on = Less off’ and ‘Timing really matters’. These messages were underpinned with group learning activities to improve understanding of herbicides and their potential to impact water quality in addition to on-farm demonstrations of best practices, giving growers the opportunity to try new practices and learn together. Rainfall simulations provided detailed local data sets to highlight which herbicides pose the greatest risk in relation to run-off, while the latest toxicity data from the Office of the Great Barrier Reef helped growers understand the relative risk of each product available to them. Growers were encouraged to use the information and examples to make the best decisions across their farm.

To better understand the social outcomes, a number of farmer surveys were undertaken. These found that by 2019, 100 of the farmers involved now understand that pesticides are entering waterways and 100% consider the environment as a factor in decision-making. Watch the video above to hear from some of the local farmers involved in the project talking about why they got involved and the benefits they received.

The great work achieved by this project will be continued through the Cane to Creek 2.0 project funded by the Great Barrier Reef Foundation.