Mackay Whitsunday

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


    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.

    Project Catalyst

    Andrew and Melissa Deguara.

    Project Catalyst, funded by the Australian Government’s Reef Trust and Reef Trust Partnership, is a sugarcane farmer-led project that was established in 2008 with a vision to encourage innovative practices with progressive farmers. The project now coordinates innovation research and enhanced practice adoption for more than 100 individual growers. The growers have participated in over 150 Project Catalyst activities on more than 35,000 hectares across the Wet Tropics, Mackay Whitsunday and Burdekin regions.

    In addition to significant practice change outcomes, the project is reporting social outcomes and enhancing grower networks. Sixty-seven events attracting 2,987 participants have been held, including annual Grower Forums, field days, shed meetings, training sessions and bus trips. This level of grower and industry interaction allows for networking to occur across geographic regions that would otherwise not occur.

    Read more grower stories about how they are improving farming practices. This includes Ray and Leah Vella who are leading the way in improving water management on their farms, Andrew and Melissa Deguara who are trialling dual rows and pre-formed beds and Rob Sluggett who has adopted precision agriculture.

    Sandy Creek: On-farm change for water quality improvement

    Phil Deguara.

    The Sandy Creek: on-farm change for water quality improvement project monitored sub-catchment water quality and directed extension activities to sub-catchments within the Sandy creek catchment where water quality exceeds guidelines for pesticides. It was funded by the Queensland Government’s Reef Water Quality Program, and is a collaboration involving growers, scientists from the Department of Environment and Science (DES), extension services provided by Mackay Area Productivity Services (MAPS) and Farmacist, and social scientists from Social Marketing @ Griffith.

    Over the reporting period, Sandy Creek growers worked with DES scientists to monitor sub-catchment water quality to link farm practice to in-stream water quality. Farmacist conducted paddock-scale trials to improve understanding of different pesticides and management practices. MAPS provided direct extension to growers and Griffith University surveyed growers to understand practice change barriers.

    The project has achieved significant social outcomes. Increased grower ownership of water quality in Sandy Creek reflects the increased trust in water quality monitoring results and the relationship between on-farm practices and water quality outcomes. Twenty participants, including extension service providers, growers, chemical resellers, natural resource management practitioners and contractors participated in a half-day workshop in May 2019. Workshop insights included:

    • The importance of fostering ownership and shared responsibility
    • The active involvement of growers in relevant stakeholder activities is considered central to achieving ongoing support.

    You can read more about the project and some of its earlier outcomes in this case study.

    Project awards

    Phil Deguara, a Sandy Creek farmer, won the Reef Pesticide Champion award in 2018.

    The great work achieved by this project is continuing with a new project phase being delivered by Reef Catchments, Farmacist and MAPS focusing on supporting Sandy Creek growers to adopt best practice pesticide management. For more information, please visit the Reef Catchments website .


    Janes Creek

    Reef Catchments has delivered a 30-month whole-of-system project engaging with all sugarcane farmers, graziers and harvesting contractors across the Janes Creek catchment, which borders urban Mackay.

    The project collectively worked on improving management practices, conducting system repairs, constructing treatment solutions, and evaluating and monitoring water quality improvements within the catchment area.

    With funding from the Queensland Government’s Reef Water Quality Program, the project has achieved significant outcomes:

    • providing extension support to landholders
    • providing grants of up to $8,000 for water quality improvement projects (pesticide nutrient and sediment)
    • construction and revegetation of stormwater treatment train
    • installation of the Janes Creek water quality monitoring station and urban water quality monitoring at the Mackay Gooseponds
    • establishing the Janes Creek Catchment Group and production of bi-monthly catchment group newsletter
    • training three landholders to sample water quality appropriately.

    The resulting practice changes will be reported in the next Reef Water Quality Report Card.

    The project is also reporting on social outcomes. A project survey found the main benefits for:

    • sugarcane farmers were cost savings and improved decision-making
    • graziers were environmental outcomes (i.e., reduction of sediment entering waterways) and improved pastures
    • the majority of the landholders believed that changes to land management would improve the water quality of Janes Creek.  

    Watch this video to hear from some of the landholders involved in project.  

    You can find out more about this project by visiting Reef Catchment’s website.