Doug Crees farms 153 hectares alongside the Mossman River and the changes he’s been making to improve water quality have seen barramundi return to farm waterways.
In working his way towards SmartCane BMP accreditation, he says the biggest hurdle was that he didn’t apply fertiliser under the ground.
“Initially, I got a contractor in to apply the fertiliser sub-surface and I saw the benefits, but it wouldn’t have been cost effective for me to buy a fertiliser bin by myself,” he said. “I applied for a (Reef Trust III) grant and the Wet Tropics Sugar Industry Partnership contributed about 50 per cent of the cost.
“Now I can change fertiliser from one end of the paddock to the other and I don’t have to wait for the cane to be 600mm high so I can put the fertiliser on a bit earlier. That means I can apply it in the dry too, when it’s easier.
“It’s another piece of the puzzle to try and keep the water quality going out to the Reef as clear as we can.”
The Crees family has a constructed wetland on the farm, which was once a drain that was targeted by feral pigs. They wanted to solve that problem, get some trees up and dry out the adjoining paddock.
“It’s sort of a win-win for us. The area’s become a little sanctuary for fingerlings and it acts as a silt trap as well. The water quality is obviously pretty good because the fish are loving it.”
Doug says changes to farming practices are ongoing. Other improvements have included moving to zonal tillage practices to reduce soil compaction and revegetating riverbanks – something the family did more than a decade ago for cane machinery operating safety and for water quality benefits.