Landcare lagoons lead to wildlife benefits

This article is a follow-up to ‘A Bright Future for Fishery Falls Farmer,’ which can be found here.

Fishery Falls farmer Len Parisi has seen his fair share of change in the more than 30 years he’s spent in the sugarcane industry. It’s often easy to forget just how much has changed in the past decade, let alone the past three decades.

For Len, plenty has happened even in the past year. Since the Project Cane Changer team last visited his farm in May 2018, he’s continued to experiment with natural methods to improve his productivity, and has pushed ahead with his work involving Mulgrave Landcare and Catchment Inc.

Len’s work with Landcare has seen him undertake large-scale revegetation and tree planting on areas of his property that aren’t suitable for cane. Through Landcare, he’s also built a lagoon on another swampy area of his property to filter any excess nitrogen and nutrients leaving his property before it enters the waterways.

“Since we put in the lagoon there has been a significant increase in the wildlife numbers,” he said. “We’ve got about 40-50 different species of birds living here now and there’s been an increase in vegetation in the area.”

However, as Len will tell you, there’s always more you can be doing around the farm to improve your productivity or the quality of water leaving your farm.  

Back in May, he had plans for a much larger lagoon on another area of his farm that wasn’t great for growing cane. In just over a year, funding has been awarded through Greening Australia and the first stages of the project are about to commence.

“It’s a huge project which is currently in the middle of tenders,” he said. “The lagoon I have at the moment is about half a hectare. It looks like this one is going to be much larger – about 3 or 4 hectares.”

Len Parisi’s lagoon system has helped to re-establish wildlife in the area and filter any excess sediment and nutrients before it enters the waterways.

Len Parisi’s lagoon system has helped to re-establish wildlife in the area and filter any excess sediment and nutrients before it enters the waterways.

Laughing, he added “I’ve gotta admit, it’s bigger than I thought it was going to be. It’s on a massive scale that very few groups are doing.”

And if the lagoon alone isn’t enough, he plans to introduce water quality monitoring throughout to better understand the potential benefits of filtering nutrients and sediment leaving his property.

“There’s a lot of work going into this project, and I think it’s important that we have the results to show for it,” he said. “We’re hoping this can highlight some of the great work happening in the industry, how we can learn from one another and identify ways to change and improve into the future.”

With all that’s happening on his property, and in the industry more broadly, it’s not hard to see why he hasn’t had much downtime. Snorkelling and diving on the reef near Cooktown are one of his favourite hobbies – and he plans to go back after the 2019 season comes to an end.

“There’s plenty of information about the reef out there,” he said. “However I like to see the health of the reef firsthand and see how the changes we’re making on our farms can help.”  

In the future, Len hopes to continue to experiment with natural methods to reduce his chemical use and improve the water quality leaving his farm.

“We always try natural methods first – we have guinea grass growing on the banks of rivers that we’re trying to get rid of,” he said.

“Instead of spraying it Landcare has planted trees right along the banks. These will help to stabilise the banks and reduce runoff but will also shade out the grass – meaning that it won’t be a problem soon.”

He also hopes that he can demonstrate how productivity and environmental benefits can often go hand in hand.

“I’m hoping the work with Landcare can show that you don’t always have to plant cane everywhere,” he said. “If you have an area that isn’t great for growing cane or may not be economically viable, you can always consider how you can revegetate it to benefit the environment and water quality.”

Behaviour Innovation