Growers Recognised for Positive Impact

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This article was originally published in the Cassowary Coast Independent on 9 November 2017.

Sugarcane growers have been recognised for their positive efforts to protect the Great Barrier Reef in the latest Reef Report Card.

In a recent media statement, the Minister for the Great Barrier Reef Steven Miles said the Report Card, which covers activity up to June 2016, showed particular improvement in reducing nitrogen runoff.

“Thanks to lots of hard work on the ground, we’ve finally got pollution falling,” Mr Miles said.

“At a time when we’ve seen warmer oceans causing coral bleaching, it is crucial we do all we can to improve water quality and the health and resilience of the Reef. “We’ve been working with cane growers so that they are part of the solution for water quality while also getting great results for their farms.

“And it’s working—farmers have made the most effective land management practice changes to date.”

The report showed modelled annual average loads of dissolved inorganic nitrogen reduced by 5.5% to 25.5% in the Burdekin as a result of improved nitrogen and irrigation management by sugarcane growers.

 

Chemicals leaving the catchments had also reduced by 36% at June 2016. The greatest annual reduction was from the Wet Tropics region (4.8%) where band spraying residual herbicides was increasingly adopted and fewer applications are being made on ratoon cane crops.

“The hard work and positive changes growers have been undertaking on their farms will continue to show the Australian industry is a world leader in sustainable sugar production,” CANEGROWERS CEO Dan Galligan said. “We are proud of our achievements.”

More than 70% of the cane farming area in Queensland is part of Smartcane BMP, the industry’s best management practice program. This voluntary program is industry-developed and individually tailored, helping to drive industry productivity while ensuring that practices on the farm are contributing to the sustainability and protection of the Great Barrier Reef.

“The 70% of cane farming land involved in Smartcane BMP represents 280,792 hectares. The farming practices on that land are now benchmarked in the program and growers continue to move through to accreditation in the three water quality-relevant modules,” Mr Galligan said.

Dr John Pickering, from Project Cane Changer, believes this is a great result. “We are really pleased to see growers recognised for their positive changes,” he said.

Cane Changer is a CANEGROWERS initiative that works with growers to recognise them for their positive land management practices. Growers sign up to the project through a Cane Changer Commitment which details the changes they have made and are willing to make on their farms.

In Tully, many of the growers who have committed to the project have indicated that they are regularly adopting new practices such as SIX EASY STEPS nutrient management systems – the industry best standard, sub-surface fertiliser application and fallow cropping.

“These practices reduce nutrient and sediment loss into the waterways and are just some of the many changes that growers in Tully, and across the Wet Tropics, have made that are contributing to improving water quality into the Great Barrier Reef,” Dr Pickering said. “Growers should be extremely proud of the hard work they have put in to see this great result.

“By committing to keeping better records and getting enrolled in programs such as Smartcane BMP, farmers can continue to set the record straight and highlight the positive practice changes they are making on farm to improve their productivity and in turn, the water quality running into the Reef.”