Tully Water Quality Field Day a Success

December 19, 2017

Water quality is improving in the Cassowary Coast region – and changes to farming practices are part of the reason.

More than 70 cane farmers and other industry representatives met in Tully recently to hear the latest information on water quality projects and the health of waterways across the Wet Tropics.

The Tully sugar industry event was hosted by Tully Sugar Limited and was an initiative of Sugar Research Australia, Tully Cane Productivity Services Limited and the Wet Tropics Sugar Industry Partnership.

Dr Suzanne Jenkins, the executive officer of Wet Tropics Healthy Waterways Partnership, was among the guest speakers and presented findings from the recently released Wet Tropics Report Card 2017, indicating the Tully, Murray and Johnstone river catchments are on the improve.

Dr Ryan Turner from the Department of Science, Information, Technology and Innovation also presented data showing that water quality in the Tully catchment is improving thanks to land management practice changes.

Lots of good news stories came out of the presentations – encouraging news for cane growers that their work is paying off.

So what is this good work?

For some years now the sugar industry has developed a series of strategies around the sustainable use of pesticides and fertilisers, resulting in a program known as SmartCane BMP. One of the benefits of this program, apart from targeting productivity, is the impact on water quality especially in relation to herbicide and fertiliser usage.

No one fertilises or sprays a crop to see the product disappear from where it is needed, and the local sugar industry is always looking for the best way to use these products. This is evident now in the Wet Tropics Report Card 2017 and means water leaving farms is more likely to be a better quality.

Another step taken by the industry that has gained some recognition is reducing use of the insecticide Imidacloprid, commonly known as Confidor and used to manage cane grubs.

By highlighting the incidence of Pachymetra, a fungus that attacks cane roots a little like grubs do, Imidacloprid usage has decreased because an insecticide is useless against a fungus. As a result there is now is a downward trend in the amount of Imidacloprid showing up in Tully River water samples.

Growers also visited static sites during the recent cane industry field day highlighting the latest advances in subjects ranging from drone technology to water sampling, pesticide use and biosecurity.

Exhibitors and group presenters included the Department of Natural Resources and Mines, the Department of Agriculture, Bayer and Crop Care, the Wet Tropics Sugar Industry Partnership, Sugar Research Australia and the Wet Tropics Major Integrated Project.