Responding to the challenge: Culture of innovation and stewardship

Projects are guided by the latest science and build on the success of previous trials.

Innovative projects

For example, the Queensland Government’s highly successful Burdekin Nutrient Management Planning project is being expanded into the Mackay Whitsunday, Wet Tropics and Burnett Mary regions. Supported by more than $7 million from the Australian and Queensland governments, the project funds locally trusted and highly skilled agronomists and farmer champions to help sugarcane growers improve their fertiliser use efficiency.

Through this project, sugarcane farmers John and Charles Quagliata have reduced their fertiliser use with no effect on yield which saves them money and helps the Reef.

“This (nutrient management) plan that we’re under, I reckon it’s a great way and the more people that take it on board the better it’s going to be,” John said.

“Our main aim is to get the plant to use exactly what it needs… Putting the right rate on, better in our pocket, better for the Reef, better for everything,” Charles said.

Learn how farmers such as the Qualiatas are reducing fertiliser run-off.

Mossman sugarcane grower Glen Fasano

Mossman sugarcane grower Glen Fasano

The ground-breaking Project Catalyst grower innovation project, which trials and validates new farm management practices, is being revamped with more than $3 million through the Reef Trust. Working with Catchment Solutions, more than 300 sugarcane growers from Sarina to Mossman are learning how to improve their nutrient and chemical management.

Mossman sugarcane grower Glen Fasano has been trialling a range of fertilisers through Project Catalyst to reduce nitrogen loss.

“There is a lot of interest in up and coming products and we need to see first-hand evidence to be confident in applying them,” Glen said. “The important thing about doing trials of this kind is that unless you collect and analyse all the data, and do the trial correctly, it doesn’t mean anything.”

Read more about the product comparison project.

South Johnstone cane farmer Adrian Darveniza

South Johnstone cane farmer Adrian Darveniza

South Johnstone cane farmer Adrian Darveniza is actively spreading the word about improved farming practices. The flexibility of Reef Trust Reverse Tender grants, delivered through Terrain NRM, allowed him to choose the specific activities (zero tillage planting and use of mill mud) that would reduce his nitrogen inputs while maintaining crop yield.

“I am happy to be a part of these projects where growers can share knowledge – there is so much we can learn from each other,” Adrian said.

Warrami sugarcane farmer Les Blennerhasset used Reef Trust Reverse Tender funding to purchase a stool splitter so he could apply fertiliser sub-surface, lowering the risk of fertiliser being washed away by heavy rain. He saved money by applying less fertiliser per hectare and the property returned the same yield of cane.

Warrami sugarcane farmer Les Blennerhasset

Warrami sugarcane farmer Les Blennerhasset

“As farmers we have been doing the same practices forever and this program gives us the opportunity to dip our toe in and test the waters with something new,” Les said. “This trial proves that farmers are wasting money by over-fertilising.”

Graziers can access a whole-of-business health check and ongoing coaching through Reef Trust’s $2.9 million Project Pioneer delivered by Resource Consulting Services. They are supported to improve the efficiency and profitability of their beef production and grazing land condition, which results in minimal loss of valuable top soil to the Reef.

Major integrated projects

More on-ground changes are being delivered through the $33 million major integrated projects funded by the Queensland Government. These first of a kind projects are designed by the local community to provide a localised approach to delivering sustainable land management that improves water quality. Terrain NRM is coordinating the Wet Tropics project and NQ Dry Tropics is coordinating the Burdekin Landholders Driving Change project. They are concentrating effort in pollutant ‘hot spots’ and piloting a mix of actions including water treatment systems, farmer support, incentives, landscape remediation, local scale monitoring, and innovative funding and investment opportunities.

“The key thing with the Major Integrated Project is it’s not just about water quality for the Reef, it’s about sustainable communities,” Terrain NRM CEO Carole Sweatman said. “Rural communities in Queensland are really important to everybody. We’ve been through disasters, we’ve got ups and downs with agricultural prices but we’re all trying to work together in actually ensuring that we’re here for the long term.”

Learn more about the Major Integrated Project in the Preserve the Wonder - Improving farming practices video.

“The scale of the problem we’ve got is beyond the means of any one grazier,” Dr Scott Crawford, Chief Executive Officer, NQ Dry Tropics said. “What we know is that we need transformational change. And that’s where the Landholders Driving Change project comes in. A core element of the project is actually bringing together graziers and all the knowledge they have from managing the land every day of their lives with scientists who understand the processes that drive erosion.”

Learn how graziers and scientists are working together to reduce sediment run-off.