Tully Johnstone Reef Water Quality Program


A new reef water quality program has been announced to reduce the runoff of dissolved inorganic nitrogen (DIN) from farms in the Tully and Johnstone catchments. The $10.7 million program will deliver a range of projects – from helping farmers with nutrient management planning, installing constructed wetlands and expanding local scale water quality monitoring.

The program is being managed by Terrain NRM and funded by the partnership between the Great Barrier Reef Foundation and the Australian Government’s Reef Trust.

Charles Hammond, Waterway Health Leader at Terrain NRM, said the Tully and Johnstone catchments are priorities for DIN runoff due to high rainfall, intensive agriculture on the coastal plain and short sharp rivers.

“There has been significant investment in these catchments previously and farmers have been working hard to improve water quality,’’ he said. “This program will continue to support farmers to make changes to land management and farm practices.

Mr Hammond said four organisations would be delivering on-ground projects.

A partnership led by Canegrowers Innisfail is addressing nitrogen losses by providing extension support to farmers to develop nutrient management plans, identify crop constraints, improve nutrient use efficiency and refine nitrogen inputs.

Liquaforce will also be working with 10 growers across 2000 hectares to improve fertiliser application, as well as developing a new platform to make it easier for growers to access and store their farm data so they can track and monitor crop and financial performance, and any underlying agronomic issues.

The program includes paddock and sub-catchment water quality monitoring, which will help provide practical data to farmers about water quality flowing off their farms to support decisions about farm practices. James Cook University’s TropWater and CSIRO will expand existing monitoring and share the data with farmers and extension providers.

Mr Hammond said long-term change depended on investing in solutions that were a benefit for landholders as well as for water quality.

“Farmers are running businesses so changes made for the reef also need to be economically viable,” he said.

16 December 2021

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