Sandy Creek: On-farm change for water quality improvement

The Sandy Creek – On-farm change for water quality improvement project sought to address the issue of unintended pesticide losses from sugarcane farms to help manage their water quality impact.

Taking samples on field

Reef Catchments maintains an autosampler on site.

The project supported landholders to collect their own water samples to increase understanding of what was driving the losses and to identify solutions which would not impact productivity. Mackay Area Productivity Services (MAPS) and Farmacist provided targeted extension services to support growers to address these losses through tailored farm management plans.

As reported in social monitoring through this project in 2021:

  • all landholders felt that changing their pesticide management was a positive and easy thing to do on their property
  • over two thirds of landholders believed that most cane growers in their local area had changed their pesticide management
  • more landholders were motivated to make changes by the benefits to local water quality and the environment.

Growers involved in the project said:

“I’m getting good results, so the benefit is that the practices that I am implementing is to industry standard or better. It’s reassurance that what I am doing is right.”

“Growers are trying to do the best they can, but we need to be able to see if what we’re doing is actually working. The information that I’ve gotten out of the project is really good as we’re starting to link changes in water quality to changes in farming practice.”

A number of case studies describe farmers’ personal journeys through this project including Phil Deguara who, along with a group of growers, originally raised concerns about pesticide loss in the Sandy Creek catchment. Other farmers include Andrew Vassallo who joined the project when he saw his neighbours involved in water quality monitoring, Charlie and Paul Vassallo who are continually looking to improve how they run their farm, and Mark Craig who joined the project because of his interest in water quality.

This project was funded through the Queensland Government’s Queensland Reef Water Quality Program. More information on the Sandy Creek project can be found by visiting Sandy Creek – On farm change for water quality improvement.