AFTER more than 60 years growing cane on the Burdekin, and following in the footsteps of his father before him, Jim Richardson knows a thing or two about land management.
Mr Richardson, who has 72 hectares under cane on the Burdekin Delta, began reducing his fertiliser use almost 10 years ago.
After first participating in the RP20 Burdekin Nitrogen Trials, Mr Richardson then teamed up with NQ Dry Tropics to take part in the Reef Trust Tender project between 2016 and 2018.
As a result of the two programs, Mr Richardson is using less fertiliser and saving money, without impacting his yield.
"We had some trials with RP20 and they were very precise trials, fertiliser was weighed and put on accurately," Mr Richardson said.
"From that we found that putting excess fertiliser on over and above the 'six easy steps' in our case was a complete waste of money - the crop didn't grow any bigger and it had less sugar."
Mr Richardson said he believed farmers were the best land stewards who would willingly participate in best practice programs to both protect the environment and increase productivity, without the need for strict regulations.
"It doesn't make sense to put too much fertiliser on if it's proven that it doesn't need it," he said.
"It's a waste of money - you might as well dump it on the road somewhere.
"There's a happy medium and that's what we've got to."
Mr Richardson said a recent reef health report showing nitrogen runoff was reducing, was evidence that farmers were keen to do their bit.
"We've got the runs on the board as farmers go, there's been a 25 per cent reduction in the nitrogen going out and that's a considerable amount of fertiliser being saved all round," he said.
"I think we as farmers are being blamed for things on the reef that I don't think are caused by farming.
"It is my view that the reef has been able to overcome a lot of things, like weather events, that have occurred over time."