Sugarcane Farmers the ‘Game Changer’ for our Reef

Dianne Mauloni
February 17, 2016

Innovative farmer Ben Poggioli with his strip-tillage unit

Ben Poggioli an innovative farmer demonstrating strip-tillage equipment

Farmers are using radio transmitters to better protect the Great Barrier Reef whilst reducing their own costs.

The transmitters and moisture probes which turn irrigation off at precisely the right moment to reduce runoff, save water and potentially boost crop yield, are being trialled on farm.

This is just one innovation farmers will learn about at the annual Project Catalyst Forum in Cairns (from Feb 22 to Feb 23), hosted in 2016 by Terrain NRM. With more attention on the health of the Great Barrier Reef than ever, the forum will be significant for sugar growers nationally.

Results and findings from innovation trials under Project Catalyst will be shared with the aim of improving water quality, limiting water use and reducing agricultural runoff. To date, Project Catalyst growers in Queensland have helped improve the quality of more than 150 billion litres of water flowing to the Great Barrier Reef.

Reef Catchments Manager Katrina Dent said, “This year’s forum comes at a significant time, as the sugar industry as a whole seeks to find ways to help meet ambitious reef targets to reduce sediment and chemical runoff from farms into river catchments that connect to the Reef.”

Project Catalyst** was established to help cane farmers develop innovative, economically viable and environmentally sustainable farming practices. 

The program is a unique collaboration between cane farmers, The Coca-Cola Foundation, WWF, Bayer CropScience, NRM groups and the Australian Government. It currently involves more than 70 cane growers from the state’s major areas of sugar production – Mackay and the Whitsundays, Burdekin Dry Tropics, and the Wet Tropics.

Terrain NRM CEO Carole Sweatman said, “Project Catalyst is an agriculture program that is assisting over 70 innovative cane growers with developing, testing and validating new farming practices that are improving the quality of water running off into the Great Barrier Reef. These farmers are driving the adoption of cutting edge practices that will yield improved environmental outcomes. 

“The Project Catalyst Forum is a fantastic opportunity to bring this network of farmers together to share knowledge and learn about new developments in the industry. Terrain is committed to fostering agricultural innovation so we are delighted to be hosting these innovative growers from the Burdekin, Mackay Whitsundays and the Wet Tropics.”

Tully Project Catalyst sugarcane grower, Ray Zamora said, “I’m looking forward to the Cairns forum to catch up with our network of innovative growers and hear how their projects are going.”