Farmers on a bus to an innovative future

Kathryn Dryden
April 5, 2016

Farmers on a bus to an innovative future

The zonal tillage machine used in precision agriculture on Ben Poggioli’s farm on the Tablelands (Source: Fiona George)

Some of North Queensland’s most forward-thinking land managers will celebrate agricultural innovation, and share knowledge on a cross-regional bus tour from 12-14 April 2016.

The Innovation in Agriculture Bus Tour will visit properties across the Wet Tropics, Burdekin Dry Tropics and Mackay-Whitsunday regions, and will examine how farmers are using innovative methods to boost productivity while improving water quality and protecting the Great Barrier Reef.

Tour highlights on day one will include a visit to Ray Zamora’s sugar cane farm at Euramo. Ray is an innovative farmer whose methods include making his own bio-fertiliser, cover cropping, and diversifying into rice. He is also now trialling an aerator to reduce compaction.

One of the stops on day two will include a visit to the Spotswood family’s Mt Alma organic farm at Inkerman. The Spotswoods are certified organic producers of low-input vegetables, fruit, and herbs, and they are pioneering integrating cattle into their horticulture and cane production. Farmers also visit The Australian Institute of Marine Science where they will see data relating to land management and its affect on water quality and reef health.

Day three in the Mackay-Whitsunday region will include a visit to Simon Mattsson’s cane farm in Marian, west of Mackay. Simon is a 2015 Nuffield Scholar who travelled to North and South America to investigate ways that multi-species cover crops could enhance soil health and improve nutrient and pesticide use. He is now successfully growing sunflowers as a companion crop for cane.

Fiona George, Wet Tropics Regional Landcare Facilitator said that the tour is the first of its kind. She said, “We have collaborated with the other regional bodies in the GBR Catchment and Herbert Cane Productivity Services Ltd to show farmers a range of innovative approaches to improve farming practices for profitability and for the Reef.

“We want to provide exposure to as much knowledge and inspiration as possible so that they might consider trialling new ways of doing things on their own farm.

“Farmers learn best from other farmers and by seeing results for themselves.”

The tour will visit agricultural properties that are gaining economic and environmental benefits by adopting innovative practices that use nitrogen more efficiently, conserve soil, and reduce herbicide use.

Fiona said, “The tour will highlight how several of these practices can be adopted on a variety of produce, including cane, vegetables, mangoes, farmed seafood and mixed cropping.

“We have had a fantastic response in the Wet Tropics with the bus booked out completely! More and more farmers in our region are opening their minds to applying innovative thinking to their land management practices.”

Other innovative practices on view will include using zonal tillage machinery to improve soil health; peat harvesting; using enhanced efficiency fertilisers; and using algae to treat fish farm and irrigation runoff. 

Please contact Fiona via fiona.george@terrain.org.au or 0488 702 203 for information.  Keep an eye on Terrain NRM’s Facebook page for news and photos of the tour.

Image: The zonal tillage machine used in precision agriculture on Ben Poggioli’s farm on the Tablelands – this implement reduces disturbance to the soil and only tills the area to be planted. This in turn reduces diesel use, labour and damage to the machine and the soil. This pic was taken at a field day at Ben’s for precision agriculture. (Photo credit: Fiona George)