A demonstration farm in the Herbert region is providing data for growers to accelerate the adoption of improved farm management practices for water quality and sustainable agricultural outcomes.
The idea for the demonstration farm was instigated by growers Rex and Ian Carr through an extension workshop series that began in 2018.
Herbert Cane Productivity Services Ltd (HCPSL) and Wet Tropics Sugar Industry Partnership (WTSIP) extension agronomist Leanne Carr said the topic of water quality was high on the agenda for growers.
"Those involved were keen to see whether the changes in management practice really made a difference to the water quality leaving their paddocks,’’ she said.
The Herbert River Catchment and Landcare Group stepped up to undertake water quality sampling to monitor the effect of the trials that were operating on the demonstration farm.
Water quality samples were collected over a two-year period from the beginning of the 2018-19 wet season until March 2020.
By using water quality monitoring data from best practice farming and comparing these outcomes to former traditional practices occurring on adjacent farms the data captured provides key discussion points for grower group interaction and information sharing.
"The results from this project supports many of the findings and assumptions that already exist in various best management practice frameworks used by industry, and also raised a number of questions that would benefit from further investigation,’’ Leanne said.
“Results showed sediment loss during extreme rainfall events was much lower at the demonstration farm site using minimum till methods. Less tillage, improved soil structure and maintaining good groundcover, reduces the potential for sediment movement during these significant rainfall events.
“Improved farming practices generally reduce surface loss of nitrate. However, both sites demonstrated large fluxes of high concentrations of nitrate in surface runoff when compared to the sub surface flows. The results suggest increased infiltration rates due to ‘best practice’ soil management increase the chance of applied nutrients reaching the root zone of the crop and reduce the amount of surface loss.”
Herbert growers interested in joining the conversation about farming practices and how implementing different strategies may influence water quality are being encouraged to contact HCPSL.
This project is funded by the Enhanced Extension Coordination in GBR project and delivered by the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries and partner organisation Terrain NRM. WTSIP and HCPSL also provided support to this project.