Graziers, cane growers and banana growers are among the land holders who have been recognised for their work in introducing land management practices to protect the Great Barrier Reef.
Two finalists from across Queensland have been named across the five categories with the winners to be announced at a dinner in Townsville on Wednesday, November 22.
Banana grower David Rolfe, from Mena Creek and Burnett Mary Region cane farmer Chris Russo are finalists in the reef nutrient management category.
David has introduced automated irrigation and fertigation systems which have improved on-farm efficiencies and reduced fertiliser waste. He now applies 95 per cent of all nitrogen through his fertigation system and has reduced his nitrogen input further by regular soil and leaf testing and altering application rates according to crop cycles.
The automation of his irrigation system and move to fertigation has been a game changer, leading to a significant improvement in general farm health.
Chris implemented an innovative and novel approach to reduce nutrient applications. His concept is modification of a high clearance tractor and nitrogen injection bar, to apply liquid nitrogen subsurface to allow for a later application of nitrogen .
Chris is aiming for a reduction in the total applied Nitrogen and optimisation of NUE to maximize yield potential. This is currently being tested and validated in a cane innovation project funded through the Reef Alliance Project.
Fitzroy region grazing landholders Dan Bishop and Louis Moore have both been named as reef sediment management award finalists.
Dan has addressed gully erosion and sediment loss across his property with a focus on demonstrating on-ground actions and communicating them with his peers. Dan has implemented a number of actions on his farm which have not only reduced erosion problems but also assisted him in better managing his lands in order to increase productivity.
Based on his changes in practice, it is anticipated that Dan will reduce a total of 123 tonnes of sediment each year from entering the waters of the Great Barrier Reed Lagoon.
Louis runs Dovecot, a 4700ha grazing property 20km south of Rockhampton, and is a first-generation landholder committed to improving his practices. Dovecot’s operation is an example of first class custodianship, not only of the land but of the Reef and broader environment. Louis’s activities include reducing stream bank erosion by installing watering points throughout his property and also managing stock through rotational grazing which improves cover and reduces erosion.
Wet Tropics region landholder Joshua Maunder and cane growers Gary and Angela Spotswood from the North Queensland dry tropics region are reef conservation award finalists.
Joshua restored riparian native vegetation along McPaul creek to create a green corridor between sugarcane agricultural areas, the Bellenden Ker Mountain Range and the Russell River. The native vegetation he planted included a diverse variety of edible trees to provide a food source for native birds and animals, including the critically endangered cassowary.
Josh’s improvements have significantly reduced sediment loss from gully erosion.
The Spotswood’s have restored the ecological function of Mt Alma’s 100 ha lagoon. The lagoon provides important habitat for wildlife including migratory wader birds and fish species such as Barramundi, but was choked with thickets of Typha – a native plant that had taken advantage of the constantly wet conditions caused by excess irrigation water.
Waterbirds, fish and other flora and fauna have returned and the lagoon is now able to filter and contain runoff during rainfall events, improving water quality for the downstream areas including the Reef.
Allan Blair, extension officer for Queensland Government Department of Agriculture and Fisheries and Debra Telford, extension officer for Canegrowers Innisfail have been named as finalists in the reef extension officer category.
Alan has facilitated numerous workshops for growers and extension staff in the cane growing regions north of Maryborough. Allan also designed a herbicide sprayer that allows two types of herbicide to be used at the same time. By having this ability, it prevents residuals being applied to the inter-row, which carries a high risk of residual pesticide runoff from a rainfall event.
Debra has worked for the sugar industry in Far North Queensland for 20 years. She was instrumental in delivering grants and extension support to growers to reduce their impact on water quality. Deb graciously supported growers through Reef Regulations and assisted with the completion of Environmental Risk Management Plans. When Cyclone Yasi crossed the coast,Deb stepped into the role of Industry Recovery Officer to assist growers to repair their farming practices.
Banana farmers Frank and Dianne Sciacca from the wet tropics region and Mackay cane farmer Tony Bugeja are Prince of Wales Environmental Leadership –Reef Sustainability Award Finalists.
Frank and Dianne Sciacca are co-founders of the innovative Ecoganic farming system, which is said to be ahead of its time in protecting the Reef. They have implemented a system which enables fungicide reduction of 60-100%. Their product, the Wax Tip Eco Bananas, is available from nearly all Australian States and Territories.
Tony is an advocate of change and has been applying proven water quality improvement cane farm practices for more than a decade. His commitment to the sugar industry is demonstrated by his commitment to long term trial projects as well as working closely with industry bodies.