Graham Zunker is using GPS technology to guide an in-furrow switch plough through the plant zone while Greig follows in a second tractor working a rotary hoe. The block is being reconfigured to suit a new low pressure overhead irrigation system. This is one of the final stages in a five year all-of-farm project to reduce energy consumption and make more efficient use of crop irrigation.
Joe Zappala, from Innisfail, talks about targeting application of nutrients using modifications supported by the Australian Reef Government Programme. Nutrients are applied underground to ensure they are delivered right to the root zone. Joe also uses a variable rate spray controller to improve accuracy in spray rates and efficiency in application. It's a win for the environment and productivity.
Bundaberg cane growers Mark and Brian Pressler have demonstrated that the benefit of installing a low pressure irrigation system along with a more efficient mainline and pumping equipment has been a 60–70% reduction in energy used to pump irrigation water. They have also tapped into the sugar industry’s most extensive network of telemetric soil moisture probes and weather stations. These sort of projects typify what the Rural Water Use Efficiency and Australian Government Reef Programme are seeking to achieve through proactively partnering with farmers.
The Puglisi cane and cocoa operation near Mossman recently added to their raft of sustainable farm technologies and practices a tourism venture called Sweet Farm Tours. In this segment, the Puglisi's open the gate and show us around their farm, business and tourism venture. As some of the first growers through the sugarcane industry's newly released best management program, Smartcane BMP, they are actively promoting growers to get on board, describing it as an extremely valuable program to identify opportunities for tweaking improvements on farm, showing the community we are doing the right thing and showing the world our farms and sugar are world-class.
Soil probes and weather stations mean Gary Raiteri is irrigating his Proserpine crop only when it’s needed for maximum growth. In this segment, he takes us through the machinery, practices and technology they’ve implemented on farm, the results they’ve achieved, challenges they’ve faced and potential pitfalls.
A 480m centre pivot irrigates 56 hectares of land including sloping blocks on the Muscat family farm at Oakenden. Readings from soil probes guide the programming for each irrigation event. Two years into its operation, Joe and Steve Muscat explain how they’ve realised energy savings and productivity gains.
What are the benefits of setting up zonal tillage and using GPS? Visit a cane farm at planting time as John Turner from Mackay Area Productivity Services explains how this farming method of guiding the wheel tracks of farm machinery is set up to reduce soil compaction and, later at harvest, damage to the cane plant. Zonal tillage is integral to the first seven modules of Smartcane BMP.
A direct comparison between a new low pressure centre pivot and a high pressure soft hose irrigator has shown savings of $33 a hectare on Tony, Mark and John Bugeja’s Mackay district farm. See how it is fed by recycled water and how all runoff is collected in a dam to ensure the system has environmental as well as economic benefits.
Visit the Grottelli family’s project to restore 202 hectares of failed tree plantation land back to sugarcane production in the Herbert River district. With assistance from the Australian Government Reef Programme, the paddocks have been laser levelled to improve drainage and limit the potential for runoff and the long drills are set up for GPS-guided minimal till farming.
Growing sugarcane in the lee of Queensland’s second highest mountain creates challenges but ones that Angle Mustafa has used creativity and innovation to overcome. In an area which gets enormous amounts of rain, land and water management strategies are essential. His minimum till system includes raking trash off the stools to encourage sprouting. Reef Rescue has helped him purchase a stool splitter and fertiliser box and a new spray rig to reduce the chemical run off from his farm. He’s applied for funding to replace open drains with pipes in sandy beds.
A pilot project in the Burdekin is showing promising early signs indicating that conjunctive use dewatering bores could become an effective weapon in helping combat rising groundwater levels. Funded by the Queensland Government's Rural Water Use Efficiency - Irrigation Futures initiative, five dewatering bores have been drilled on farms connecting to the Burdekin-Haughton Water Supply Scheme. Mark Hatch, has been heavily involved in the project and takes us through the project he has been working on with Burdekin Productivity Services extension officer Marian Davis.
Tom and Brad Maisel have been converting flood/furrow irrigation areas to efficient low pressure overhead systems. Water use efficiency has been enhanced by responding quickly to information from soil moisture probes. Yield increases mean their farms are producing almost 40 tcph more than the Tablelands Mill area average. This is a great example of the efficient use of water on farm.
Australian growers are looking closely at the benefits of pooling resources to access technology that would otherwise be out of reach for an individual farmer or business. Tully cane growers Jamie and Brian Dore talk through a partnership they've formed with their neighbours.