Water Quality Field Day a Success

January 16, 2019

Water quality improvements by cane growers and the latest monitoring results were hot topics at a recent sugar industry field day in Tully.

Murray flood plain cane farmer, Ray Zamora said Tully farmers are constantly working to be top of their game.

“There’s pressure on farmers to improve water quality, and I see the sugarcane community always striving to get better outcomes,” Mr Zamora said.

“There’s a lot of projects and practice changes being implemented, often off farmers’ own backs.”

“I see it as our job to not just sustain our resources, but improve them.”

Local landscape scientist Dr John Armour described the Wet Tropics as a “water quality hotspot”.

“Nitrogen loss is particularly challenging in the Wet Tropics because of the high rainfall, closeness to the coast and the many major river basins,’’ Mr Armour said.

“Big scale end-of-valley monitoring programs are important to track our overall progress but it can be hard to pick up improvements in cane management at a sub-catchment level.

“Projects like the community-designed Wet Tropics Major Integrated Project (MIP) are aiming to help bridge this gap.

“Their local scale monitoring program has installed 30 new monitoring sites across the Tully-Johnstone catchments.”

“The data is being provided back to landholders, and will help track changes in water quality right from the top of the catchment, to the bottom, across all different land uses.

“An important feature of the MIP is the rapid turnaround of water quality results to the community via shed meetings.”

Attendees at the 2019 Tully Water Quality Field Day

Dr Armour also spoke about the Great Barrier Reef Catchment Loads Monitoring program, which includes 62 sites across 30 basins.

“The program tracks long-term trends in water quality entering the Great Barrier Reef lagoon from adjacent catchments and the data helps with Reef 2050 water quality targets,” Dr Armour said.

The sugar industry water quality field day was a coordinated effort by all Tully sugarcane extension services including Sugar Research Australia, Tully Cane Productivity Services, Tully Sugar Limited, Wet Tropics Major Integrated Project, Wet Tropics Sugar Industry Partnership and the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries.

Principal Researcher at Sugar Research Australia, Belinda Billing, said the event was an opportunity for the sugarcane community to come together to learn about the latest local water quality data, research and innovations.

“As an industry we need to show that we can be part of the water quality solution, and the turnout and discussion today shows there’s a lot of people who are invested in this,” Ms Billing said.

“Farming practices are always evolving, and part of farming profitability is about minimising what is lost from the farm. The information and tools on display at the field day are examples of how we can achieve win-win outcomes.”

A rainy site visit...

The day also included site visits, and demonstrations. Participants said it was great to hear directly from farmers about their efforts to improve water quality on-farm.

The Wet Tropics MIP is funded by the Queensland Government through the Queensland Reef Water Quality Program.

WATCH: A Grower's Perspective by Ray Zamora

WATCH: Nitrogen - the Escape Artist by Dr John Armour