A WEB-based tool is helping NQ Dry Tropics’ project officers prioritise projects according to water quality benefits when working with sugarcane growers to improve their farming practices.
The NQ Dry Tropics Sugar Team has tested the recently developed Paddock to Reef Projector, which helps extension staff and growers forecast the benefit of investing in farming practice change.
NQ Dry Tropics project officer Michael Hobbs said the projector was proving to be an effective business planning tool, helping growers and extension staff to discuss the relative benefit of adopting improved farming practices in a timely manner.
“The grower now has the opportunity to propose changes to their farming practices and see the predicted outcomes of those changes immediately,” Mr Hobbs said.
“Using the projector tool we can better communicate the water quality outcomes of improved farming practices to growers, and ensure our investments in these improvements are cost effective.
“It’s also proving to be a good engagement and communication tool between extension officers and growers, helping to bridge the gap between farming practices and water quality outcomes to the reef.
“Growers are finding that it increases their understanding of the practice change adoption process through asking questions they may not normally consider,” he said.
Burdekin grower Gordon Wood said the projector tool predicted the environmental benefits of further improving his irrigation efficiency and the associated grant funding that could be leveraged.
“I am making changes to the way I farm. I’ve gone from focusing on efficient nutrient application to looking at all areas of farm management, in particular irrigation management, and using tools to measure soil moisture to improve the accuracy of my irrigation scheduling,” Mr Wood said.
“I’m now basing decisions on the information I get through these monitoring tools rather than just from looking at the cane.
“The projector has shown me that by effectively managing both nutrient and irrigation practices, there are significant additional water quality benefits,” he said.
NQ Dry Tropics Paddock to Reef Program project officer Jade Fraser said the Queensland Government was focusing attention on the adoption of key farming practices that directly reduce the risk of nutrients, pesticide and sediment run-off into the Great Barrier Reef.
“The long-term goal is to improve water quality in the reef catchments. The Paddock to Reef projector is helping NQ Dry Tropics work with the grower to better understand the positive impact of each farm practice and how it’s helping to contribute to our regional reef water quality targets. This makes it easier to assess and prioritise projects for government funding.
“For each project created in the projector, the nutrient, pesticide and sediment loads are modelled for both the current conditions and the conditions following the implementation of proposed improved management practices.
“This means we get more bang for every funding dollar, a win win situation for the farmer, the government, and for water quality improvement to the reef,” he said.
The Paddock to Reef Integrated Monitoring, Modelling and Reporting Program (P2R program) is a collaboration involving governments, industry bodies, regional natural resource management bodies, landholders and research organisations.