Cane growers and scientists join forces to protect reef

Cane growers meet reef scientists

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AIMS Biological-Chemical Oceanographer Dr Renee Gruber showed cane growers from the Herbert techniques scientists use to monitor water quality on the reef.

AIMS Biological-Chemical Oceanographer Dr Renee Gruber showed cane growers from the Herbert techniques scientists use to monitor water quality on the reef.

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Cane growers and scientists have had a meeting of the minds in a joint effort to better protect the Great Barrier Reef.

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CANE growers and scientists have had a meeting of the minds in a joint effort to better protect the Great Barrier Reef.

Farmers from the Herbert River district visited the Australian Institute of Marine Science to learn about the methods used to test water quality and monitor the overall health of the reef.

The visit comes on the back of the state government passing controversial new reef regulations, which will impose strict new conditions on farmers.

Farmers and advocates protested the changes, questioning the reliability of the science being used regarding reef health.

Herbert River Canegrowers chairman Michael Pisano said growers wanted to meet with scientists at AIMS first hand to learn about how water quality was monitored.

Mr Pisano said growers were also keen to share the steps they were taking on farm to ensure land based nutrients entering the reef were minimised.

"There's been a lot of talk about the research on the reef and we wanted to see first hand, and it's a very impressive facility and I can see there's a lot of important work going on.

"Talking to the researchers, the general view of the outer Great Barrier Reef, there doesn't seem to be any dispute about how healthy it is.

"There is no nutrients out there that are land based, the work going on is inshore and mid-reef.

"There was good interaction between growers and the researchers, with us giving a perspective of what we do on farms and hearing about what they do in their area of expertise."

Mr Pisano said he believed researchers were surprised and impressed to learn about what growers were doing under the BMP program.

He said he explained that 24 per cent of the land farmed for sugar cane had growers who were BMP accredited, with 34 per cent of those in the Herbert area part of the program and 70 per cent in Tully.

Mr Pisano said he was disappointed that the water quality report card had those figures as low as 9 per cent.

"I think they were surprised and impressed with what we are doing on our land.

"I'd like to see more interaction between growers and researchers, with them coming to visit our farms to see what we do.

"I made the point that cane farmers aren't scientists, but what we do really well is manage our farmers and we want to do the best think possible."

AIMS Dr Richard Brinkman said some of the growers concerns were around a lack of data validating the positive effect of their efforts to stop run-off from their farms, and how water quality on inshore reefs differed from outer-shelf reefs.

He said measuring the impact of sediment and nutrient loads in water flowing to the reef was primarily conducted at a catchment scale.

AIMS Biological-Chemical Oceanographer Dr Renee Gruber showed growers a hands-on demonstration of the techniques scientists use to monitor water quality on the reef.

"This was a fantastic opportunity to share our knowledge and increase the understanding about water quality issues and the work we do at AIMS," Dr Gruber said.

"We really value the opportunity to engage with growers' perspectives on water quality.

"As Queenslanders we are all connected to the Reef, so we all agree we want to keep it healthy."

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