David Wah Day: Small farmers making changes

David Wah Day has been farming 58 hectares close to the Trinity Inlet and national park in Gordonvale since 1964. While only a small farm, David has consistently made changes over the years to improve soil erosion and silt movement. These include laser-levelling, moving to 1.8 metre rows and minimising cultivation.

David worked with extension officer Joel Tierney to develop a nutrient management plan, which he says makes things simpler and easier. He also wanted to improve drainage on his property and received a grant to do this.

“We still had open drains on our farm and the feral pigs were running riot,” he said.

“We decided to put underground soakage pipe in and turn the open drain into spoon drains, which is a huge cost for a small farmer, so I applied for a grant and luckily WTSIP helped by contributing a percentage of the cost.”

David also works on his soil health, planting fallow crops and resting paddocks from cane for up to three years.

“A cover crop is a break but it’s not always long enough,’’ he said. “We put pumpkins and melons in on one block for three years and when we planted cane back on it, we went to a sixth ratoon. The first year we got 150 tonnes a hectare. Even when we ploughed it out it was 100 tonnes a hectare. With another year’s spell, we’re now on our eighth ratoon.”

The long-time farmer has never burnt his cane trash and has practiced minimum tillage for many years.

“There have usually been financial reasons for making changes, especially on a small farm, and minimum tillage is one example of that. When these changes lead to environmental gains as well, that’s great.”


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