An additional 14 cane growers in the Wet Tropics have secured funding for projects that will reduce nitrogen run-off to the Great Barrier Reef.
Forty-one Wet Tropics growers have now received funding through the Australian Government’s Reef Trust IV Repeated Tenders program which began in early 2017 and is in its final round of grants.
The funding is for a range of land management practice changes geared to both better profitability and efficiencies as well as improved water quality flowing to the Reef.
Joe Marano, Chair of the Wet Tropics Sugar Industry Partnership, estimated that the 41 growers will collectively reduce the amount of nitrogen fertiliser on their farms by at least 1200 tonnes over 5 years.
“We know from previous rounds that growers almost always reduce their nitrogen application rates beyond their contracted amounts so we expect an even greater amount of nitrogen will be saved from flowing to the Reef,” he said.
Some of the projects being funded include the use of biological fertilisers, liquid fertilisers, more targeted use of mill mud and purchase of GPS systems to enable greater precision when applying nitrogen fertiliser.
Mareeba cane, cattle and pumpkin farmer Enrico Cabassi said the grant would help he and his brothers to reduce fertiliser application rates by growing legume crops during the fallow between cane crops.
“Organic nitrogen from the legume crops is incorporated into fertiliser calculations for the cane,’’ he said. “With more fallow crops in the cane rotation we can apply less bagged nitrogen and increase our soil’s organic matter.
Mr Marano said that while this is the final round of the Reef Trust IV Repeated Tenders program, there is still plenty of support for growers wishing to make farm practice changes.
“WTSIP Extension Officers are available to work one-on-one with growers to develop individualised whole of farm nutrient management plans. These are a good starting point for exploring what changes can be made on their properties to improve profitability and water quality run-off.
“As an industry we are continuing to work together to support cane growers so that when further investment comes into the region we are well placed to ensure the funds are spent effectively for the benefit of both growers and the environment,” he said.
To find contact details for WTSIP Extension Officers go to www.wtsip.org.au/team/