Weeds used to improve soil health

Creek weeds used as compost in North Queensland


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NQ Dry Tropics' Senior Project Officer Scott Fry with Bowen farmer Jamie Jurgens.

NQ Dry Tropics' Senior Project Officer Scott Fry with Bowen farmer Jamie Jurgens.

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Farmers in Bowen are using creek weeds as compost to improve soil health in a trail that may have broad appeal.

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PROBLEM weeds choking creeks in the Burdekin have been composted and turned into fertiliser to improve soil health on local farms.

The pilot program has involved removing weeds from Kalamia Creek in Ayr and composting them.

The compost has then been used on Bowen farmer Jamie Jurgens' crops, which include pumpkins, tomatoes, capsicum and green beans.

Mr Jurgens said he was pleased to be a part of the trial.

"I got involved with the project because I believe in the concept of turning the negative of weed chokes into a positive", Mr Jurgens said.

"The compost is rich in minerals and nutrients, and it improves soil structure.

"It helps our sandier soils hold water for longer - requiring less irrigation - and it improves drainage in our heavier soils so water is better able to reach the root zones where we need it."

NQ Dry Tropics partnered with Evolution Mining to deliver the project.

Researchers hope that with further refinement, the process could help partially recover future weed management costs.

NQ Dry Tropics' Senior Project Officer Scott Fry said that aquatic weeds were a natural part of the ecosystem, but if allowed to spread they impacted water quality and animal habitat.

"Weeds can provide water quality benefits by filtering out nutrients and minerals, however, if left unmanaged they cover the entire creek surface, reducing available oxygen in the water," Mr Fry said.

"Oxygen levels deplete further as the weeds decompose, leading to fish kills and a decline in the quality of water flowing out to the Reef.

"The chokes create barriers that restrict wader bird access to food, and prevent native fish such as barramundi and mangrove jack from migrating between freshwater and the sea to breed.

"By harvesting and composting the weeds, we are able to put these nutrients in the soil where they are of most benefit.

Mr Fry said the project team was investigating ways to make the entire process more cost-effective to ensure its long-term viability.

"For this solution to work we need to refine each step, including harvesting, transportation, and biosecurity checks. It is exciting to think that we could continue to make use of the weeds, rather than simply removing them and leaving them on the creek bank."

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