Burdekin grower Willie Lucas has built a low cost automated irrigation system for his farm meaning no more midnight valve changes. Using sensors and a telemetry system that switches pumps on and off and opens and closes valves, he's also using water and electricity more efficiently and avoiding the risk of runoff leaving his paddocks.
Visit the Mirriwinni farm of Steven Bonso to look at his subsurface drainage and the best practice farming methods that boost his soil health and reduce fertiliser applications. One tactic is adding mill ash using the CANEGROWERS Cairns Region banded spreader, a resource available to all members in the region.
The Rossi family is making and using big piles of compost on their Aloomba sugarcane farm to reduce their need for inorganic nitrogen fertiliser and the risk of it leaving the farm and affecting the Great Barrier Reef. The compost is also improving the condition of their soil, the way nature intended. Funding from the Australian Government's Reef Trust IV programme was used to purchase machinery to set up the system.
Aaron Linton is comparing the performance of a new drip irrigation system, installed with assistance from the Australian Government Reef Programme, against traditional furrow irrigation on his Home Hill farm.
Ray and Rosemary Vicarioli explain how they slow and filter water on their sugarcane farm in Queensland's Wet Tropics, playing their part to protect the Great Barrier Reef. Along with rehabilitating an eroding gully, they've planted trees to stabilise a river bank and sealed their commitment to farming sustainably with Smartcane BMP accreditation.
With a lifetime of cane farming experience, Paul Gregory has a clear understanding of the social contract binding farmers as custodians of the land. An advocate of Smartcane BMP, Paul shows how he manages water flow to keep nutrients and soil on his Cairns region farm, protecting the marine environment.
After 80 years of cane growing at Aloomba in far north Queensland, the Rossi family sees environmental management as core business. On the banks of the Mulgrave River, Landcare tree planting projects mean natural ecosystems flourish alongside productive sugarcane fields ensuring good water quality for the Great Barrier Reef downstream.
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.
Take a walk with Drew Watson on his Mossman sugarcane farm to see how he works to protect the Great Barrier Reef while growing a healthy crop. A nutrient management plan, put together with the help of Smartcane BMP facilitator Rebecca Stone, is a key part of his strategy.
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.
CANEGROWERS Chairman Paul Schembri is leading by example. The Mackay farms he works with his brother Joe have been accredited under the industry best management practice program Smartcane BMP. He's now out to boost the number of growers moving through the program to help spread the message to the community and key sugar markets about the work farmers are doing to protect the Great Barrier Reef.
In an industry where keeping up with costly new technology helps to achieve best management practice, a group of Innisfail growers has joined forces to meet the challenge head-on. By pooling their resources and putting in joint applications for Australian Government Reef Programme assistance, they've been able to access more sophisticated equipment and improve their yields.
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.
Take a ride with Chris Russo to see how technology is reducing fertiliser use on his Isis district cane farm. He's using a high clearance tractor to put a liquid nutrient mix underground in a targeted approach that combines GPS and information from a drone. Chris is the winner of the 2017 Reef Awards Nutrient Management category for his innovative approach.
What does the farm of a Queensland Reef Champion look like? Visit Len Parisi and his farm in the Mulgrave Valley where natural ecosystems, water filtration and a productive cane growing business thrive side-by-side. Len won the 2019 Prince of Wales Environmental Leadership Reef Sustainability Award and he’s not finished yet.