Burdekin

    Learn more about how social monitoring will be measured in future report cards.

    Sugarcane

    Department of Agriculture and Fisheries Enhanced Extension Coordination: Empowering and upskilling women in the Burdekin

    A training package for women in the Burdekin sugar industry was funded through the Enhanced Extension Coordination in Great Barrier Reef project in partnership with the Burdekin Bowen Integrated Floodplain Management Advisory Committee (BBIFMAC) and behaviour specialists, Evidn (formerly Behaviour Innovation). The training package increased the skills and knowledge of female sugarcane growers and other women involved in the sugarcane industry through change management.

    The training comprised of two workshops delivered to Women in Sugar Burdekin members and other women from the Burdekin sugarcane community (e.g., growers, millers, extension officers). The first workshop, held in March 2019, focused on the Smartcane Best Management Practice program and several local farmers who had recently been through the best management practice (BMP) process were invited to talk to the group.  They also offered mentoring support to anyone considering doing BMP.

    Social outcomes were reported from the workshop. Participants completed surveys before and after the workshop. Several improvements to attitudes and perceived barriers were noted. In particular, the mean score for the survey question ‘how likely is it that you will implement a farming practice that is linked to improving water quality’ increased by 9.57% from the pre-survey to the post-survey, indicating a positive change in attitude of the participants as a result of the workshop.

    Reef Trust Burdekin Reverse Tenders Pilot

    An innovative project funded with $3.1 million under the Australian Government’s Reef Trust, helped Burdekin sugarcane growers reduce the fertiliser they applied to crops by more than 700 tonnes, dramatically lowering levels of excess nitrogen entering the Great Barrier Reef.

    The Pilot Round of the Reverse Tender – Burdekin project ran from 2015-2016 to 2017-2018 and was designed to address the perceived risk for farmers, who committed to applying less nitrogen to their crop. Over these three years, the 16 farmers involved used much less nitrogen — traditionally delivered through urea — on their crops without affecting the quality or quantity of sugar cane grown.

    At the end of three years the Reverse Tender pilot project resulted in 702 tonnes less nitrogen being applied. This represents an average fertiliser cost saving of $46 per hectare per year.

    The farmers involved in the pilot project reported significant financial and environmental outcomes from their changed practices in addition to social outcomes, including increased confidence. Mr Jim Richardson said he was able to grow more sugarcane on less land, so he was able to go back to resting blocks with an extended fallow period. “That means we’re using less nitrogen and less fertiliser, because cane needs a certain amount of fertiliser, but it also needs other conditions to make it grow.”

    Similarly, Mr Eric Barbagallo is a convert to the principle of applying the right amount of nitrogen to feed his crop, while at the same time profiting from reduced input costs. “As farmers, we’re environmentalists. That’s the best way to describe us. It’s about the environment, but if you save money as a farmer, it’s a win-win.”

    Building on these early successes, three additional reverse tenders have now been held across the Burdekin and Wet Tropics regions, supported by a further $12 million investment through the Reef Trust.

    More information can be found on the NQ Dry Tropics website or by watching this video.

    Burdekin Nutrient Management Project (RP161)

    The Burdekin Nutrient Management Project, known as RP161, is funded by the Queensland Government’s Reef Water Quality Program and Australian Government’s Reef Trust and delivered by a local agronomy firm Farmacist. The project has been working alongside local sugarcane farmers since 2016 to fine-tune their nitrogen rates in line with the industry standard, SIX EASY STEPS, while maintaining their productivity and profitability. During the 2019 report card period, 112 cane farms received one-on-one agronomic support to create spatially mapped whole-farm nutrient plans.

    As a result, the project achieved significant practice change outcomes, including 4,353 hectares of improved nutrient management in sugarcane and applied over 73 tonnes less nitrogen across this area in 2019.

    The project is also reporting social outcomes. A survey of some of the sugarcane farmers involved in the project found that all saw value in nutrient management planning with the main motivations for being involved to be cost savings and the convenience.  

    This video highlights the benefits for local sugarcane farmers from their involvement in the project.

    Project awards: 

    Connecting Burdekin cane farmers to their local wetland

    The Connecting Burdekin cane farmers to their local wetlands project was funded by the Queensland Government’s Reef Water Quality Program and it finished in 2019. The project worked with 12 lower Burdekin sugarcane farmers to improve the health of Horseshoe and Lilliesmere lagoons while improving the productivity and profitability of the sugarcane farms.

    The sugarcane growers involved in the project undertook several trials on their paddocks including:

    • reducing nitrogen fertiliser and banded mill mud application rates to decrease the levels of nutrients leaving the paddock and entering waterways
    • growing legumes during fallow to improve long-term soil health
    • GPS bed forming to ensure consistent row spacing and facilitate controlled traffic to reduce soil compaction
    • split application of fertiliser to more precisely deliver nutrients to crops and reduce nitrogen run-off levels.

    The project has also reported social outcomes. A survey of the sugarcane farmers found that they had increased their knowledge about the effects of nutrients and irrigation run-off on local water quality and felt the changes they had made improved the health of local wetlands.

    Watch a video of local sugarcane farmers talking about the benefits of making land management changes on their farms.

    Grazing

    Department of Agriculture and Fisheries Enhanced Extension Coordination: Holistic grazing property planning workshop

    The Enhanced Extension Coordination in the Great Barrier Reef Project, supported by the Queensland Government, is providing extension staff in the Burdekin region with the skills and tools to undertake holistic grazing property planning.

    Burdekin extension staff were trained to deliver planning using the principles of the Ecologically Sustainable Rangelands Management platform, which incorporates a focus on ecological and water quality improvements.

    Extension officers learned how to undertake sessions with graziers and how to assist them to compile the information into a meaningful plan. Extension officers from NQ Dry Tropics, Central Highlands Regional Resources Use Planning Cooperative and Dalrymple Landcare Committee took part in the training and rolled out pilot plans with three grazing properties in the Burdekin region.

    Positive social outcomes reported as a result of the training included an increase in perceived self-efficacy, highlighted by a participating grazier who commented: “It was great to be in control of the process, and have the technical support sitting at our kitchen table as we went along. It surprised me how quickly we covered a five-year development plan that will increase productivity while looking after our soils and grasslands.” 

    NQ Dry Tropics Senior Field Officer Linda Anderson said: “It is critically important to have documented plans to deal with degraded paddock areas.  We do, however, need to keep the whole-of-business in perspective and align this with individual family goals to ensure the process incorporates the wider picture that graziers are managing.”

    Department of Agriculture and Fisheries: Burdekin Grazing Best Management Practice and Extension Support

    The Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (DAF) Burdekin Grazing Best Management Practice (BMP) and Extension Support Project delivers grazing industry extension services under the Queensland Government’s Reef Water Quality Program. Until May 2019, the project was aligned to the Grazing BMP Program and provided extension support to graziers engaged in the program.

    Over the 2018-2019 year:

    • The project team worked with 163 businesses within the Burdekin catchment (approximately 25% of beef businesses and 29% of area) and an additional 46 businesses within neighbouring catchments.
    • 78% of beef producers engaged in DAF activities improved their knowledge and skills in grazing land management, animal production and business management.
    • 48% of beef producers engaged by DAF Beef Extension in the Burdekin indicated that they were highly to very highly likely to use the information and make a management practice change within 12 months.
    • Approximately 300 activities were delivered by DAF Beef Extension in the Burdekin including one-to-one on-property assistance, workshops, field days and e-extension.

    This project has also reported social monitoring outcomes. In 2019, a longitudinal survey of participants from previous practice change surveys was undertaken where 97% of surveyed graziers attributed their current skills and knowledge in part to project activities.

    Read this case study to learn more about how extension officers worked with graziers to assist with rotational grazing management.

    Burdekin Major Integrated Project – Landholders Driving Change

    Since 2017, NQ Dry Tropics has led the delivery of the Landholders Driving Change (LDC) project focusing on the Bowen Broken Bogie (BBB) catchment in the Burdekin region, near Collinsville. This grassroots project is funded by the Queensland Government’s Reef Water Quality Program. The LDC project is bringing together local graziers, other landholders, scientists and the government to design and deliver activities that accelerate progress towards water quality outcomes through empowered communities.

    By 2019, the LDC project had delivered a mix of engagement activities to 54 landholders who collectively manage almost 1 million hectares of grazing land. Key enablers that helped to successfully engaged graziers included:

    • co-delivery and transparent governance where landholders represent 50% of the project panel
    • collaboration with 36 delivery partners to provide a broad range of opportunities
    • a tailored professional development and leadership program for the catchment
    • cluster groups and demonstration sites leveraging peer-to-peer learning
    • inclusive catchment-wide grazier support with cattle pregnancy testing and construction of whoa boys.

    There are two significant outcomes from the LDC project. These are improved water quality with 4,173 hectares of land under improved gully management and enduring long-term stewardship.

    An emerging culture of stewardship is evident with 76% of grazing properties in the region to date engaged in the project in some way. The interim external evaluation in 2019 further supports this shift with 74% of project delivery stakeholders having reported a moderate or substantial improvement in the culture of stewardship among graziers (that is, the knowledge, attitudes, skills and aspirations). This has more than doubled from the previous year. When asked about maintaining minimum ground cover, the graziers said that their main motivations were reducing erosion and keeping soils on farm, having more or better grass, and looking after the land.

    One of the landholders commented: “Good to see graziers aware more now, a lot of old schoolers have been doing things the same way for years, they are now starting to try new things.”

    Read about what one of the stations involved in the project has been achieving with the Dartmoor Station Case Study or visit the LDC Update Library .

    You can also watch a video called the LDC Halfway Update to learn about what the project has achieved as at September 2019.

    Forage Budgeting Project–Burdekin

    Delivered by the Dalrymple Landcare Committee (DLC), this project provides forage budgeting training and support to graziers at the paddock-scale in the Burdekin region. Forage budgeting is a valuable land management tool to determine stocking rates to achieve better outcomes for pasture and soil condition, diet quality for cattle and better water quality for the Great Barrier Reef. Over this reporting period, the project has recruited and trained four graziers to deliver the forage budgeting service in the Upper Burdekin and they have so far worked with 24 graziers on properties totalling more than 450,000 hectares. Photo monitoring sites have also been established on properties. The approach and methods used in the Burdekin have been successfully taken up by Central Highlands Regional Resources Use Planning Cooperative Limited in the Fitzroy through engagement with DLC and Department of Agriculture and Fisheries partners. The forage budgeting projects in the Burdekin and Fitzroy are funded by the Queensland Government’s Reef Water Quality Program.

    In addition, the project has reported a number of social outcomes. The project is demonstrating that peer learning is effective because it allows landholders to share similar experiences and common experience has significant benefits. Graziers understand each other and the issues they face on a day-to-day basis. The peer-to-peer service implemented in the Upper Burdekin Rangelands is proving to be instrumental for boosting industry adoption of forage budgeting.

    To find out more about the project, please visit the DLC forage budgeting service website.

    Reducing fine sediment by maintaining and restoring Burdekin stream banks and coastal wetlands project

    In the Burdekin region, grazing lands and streambanks contribute a significant amount of the fine sediment that reaches the Great Barrier Reef via the lower Burdekin River. Led by NQ Dry Tropics in collaboration with local government, Lower Burdekin Water, Burdekin River Improvement Trust, industry groups, landholders and Traditional Owners, the Queensland Government’s Natural Resources Investment Program is funding a project to address these problems and improve water quality by:

    • repairing streambanks in priority locations to prevent erosion
    • maintaining and improving the health of key local wetlands by restoring the natural water quality treatment system functionality that traps fine sediments and other pollutants
    • supporting the local community to adopt agricultural practice change.

    The project has so far successfully removed 36 hectares of aquatic weeds from two of the priority creek systems (Lilliesmere Creek and Merryplain Creek). Participating landholders are employing holistic management principles to support wetland condition and functionality and are utilising the Paddock to Reef (P2R) Projector tool to help them understand what changes will actually make a difference in Reef water quality.

    The project is also reporting social outcomes. Burdekin grower, Gordon Wood said “I’m making changes to the way I farm. I’ve gone from focusing on efficient nutrient application to looking at all areas of farm management, in particular irrigation management, and using tools to measure soil moisture to improve the accuracy of my irrigation scheduling. I’m now basing decisions on the information I get through these monitoring tools rather than just from looking at the cane. The P2R project has shown me that by effectively managing both nutrient and irrigation practices, there are significant additional water quality benefits.”

    For more information, please visit the NQ Dry Tropics website.

    The Reef Trust Grazing practice change project also supports beef producing enterprises to improve production, performance and profitability through improved management practices.