REDUCING NITROGEN
RUN-OFF TO THE REEF

Overview

This project incentivises cane farmers to reduce their use of nitrogen fertiliser and improve farm management practices. Farmers can apply for funds through a market-based competitive tender process.

Background

The Wet Tropics is a hotspot for dissolved inorganic nitrogen run-off. Also known as DIN, it flows off farm land to waterways and the Great Barrier Reef.

Solutions

In this project, farmers drive the changes to reduce nitrogen application on their crops. Some examples include:

  • Applying compost or mill mud as an alternative crop nutrition source
  • Splitting applications of fertiliser to match crop uptake
  • Planting fallow legume crops, advanced cover cropping and rotation strategies to increase organic matter and organic nitrogen
  • Variable-rate controlled fertiliser application
  • Matching row spacing to equipment and implementing controlled traffic
  • Applying controlled-release fertiliser to match crop growth
  • Improving soil mapping to understand soil constraints
  • Using yield mapping to understand yield potential
  • Matching fertiliser applications to crop yield potential
  • Using minimal tillage practices
  • Using zero tillage for cover crops

Achievements so far

  • 38 farmers are participating
  • They collectively reduced nitrogen application by 870 tonnes by mid-2021 (92% towards target)
  • Involvement in the project is increasing adoption of best management practices, and adding to farmers’ understanding of the links between land-based practice and impacts on water quality.

Partners

This project is being delivered with partners in the Wet Tropics sugar industry.

Funders

This project is funded by the Australian Government’s Reef Trust IV Repeated Tender program.

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