30 January 2018
FUNDING BOOST TO CANE GROWERS
The Great Barrier Reef and cane farmers in the Wet Tropics will benefit from a share of a $2.68 million funding round for on-farm projects that opens today (Tuesday 30 January).
The Australian Government plans to fund more cane growers to help them make changes that boost productivity and further reduce nitrogen runoff flowing from their farms.
Information sessions will be held in the Wet Tropics next week (Monday 5 February to Thursday 8 February) at Mossman, Gordonvale, Innisfail, Tully and Ingham.
Runoff from agricultural land in the Reef catchments is one of the key threats to the health of the Reef and is linked to outbreaks of the coral-eating crown-of-thorns starfish.
With strong results from earlier rounds of this $11.8 million Reef Trust Repeated Tenders Project, applications open soon for the third round.
Joe Marano, Chair of the Wet Tropics Sugar Industry Partnership, which is overseeing the administration of the tenders in the Wet Tropics region on behalf of the Australian Government, said 29 growers in the Wet Tropics had been successful in receiving funding through the project so far.
“One of the main benefits of the Repeated Tenders is that growers can choose what practice changes they think will be most effective in improving nitrogen management on their particular farm,” he said.
The 29 growers involved in the program so far are trialling a range of different solutions. These include the improved fertiliser budgeting and the use of legumes and biological fertilisers as an alternative source of nitrogen, as well as controlled release fertilisers and specialised equipment for precision farming.
Mr Marano said that one of the key lessons coming out of the Reef Trust Tenders project is that growers are able to reduce their use of nitrogen fertiliser without affecting their yields.
“This project is proving to be a good result for farmers’ profits as well as water quality and the third round opening this month is an opportunity for more growers looking for ways to reduce their nitrogen fertiliser to benefit from funding,” he said.
The Rossi family in Aloomba used funding from the Repeated Tenders to purchase compost spreading equipment. They are showing that by using compost on their crops they can reduce their application of chemical nitrogen fertiliser by 30 per cent.
Tony Rossi said they were doing what any home gardener would do but they’re trying it on an industrial scale.
“Organic nitrogen tends to stick to the soil a lot better. We are now using natural sources of nitrogen with soy bean in the fallow and then a combination of mill mud, pea mulch, bio solids, cane bagasse and cane trash as compost,’’ he said.
“The Reef Trust Tender has been good for us in providing financial security as we try out these new practices to reduce our rates of applied nitrogen.”
Cane growers in the Wet Tropics who are interested in applying are encouraged to contact the WTSIP Reef Trust hotline 1800 899 486 or their local WTSIP extension officer. To find out contact details go to www.wtsip.org.au/team/.
Tully – Monday 5 Feb (10.00-11.30am) Mill Hall, Writ Lane
Ingham – Tuesday 6 Feb (9.00-10.30am) HCPSL, 181 Fairford Rd
Innisfail – Wednesday 7 Feb (9.30-11.00am) Australian Sugar Heritage Centre (Sugar Museum), Mourilyan
Gordonvale – Wednesday 7 Feb (2.00-3.30pm) Canegrowers, 29 Norman St
Mossman – Thursday 8 Feb (9.00-10.30am) Mossman Ag Services, 107 Alchera Drive.
The sessions will cover general information before more detailed workshop with information about the N calculator, application form and the auction (reverse tender) process.
The Wet Tropics Sugar Industry Partnership is a partnership between the sugar cane industry, natural resource management, sugar research organisations and government that are working together to deliver better yields, profits and water quality. Its team of 10 Extension Officers is working one-on-one with growers to refine their land management practices.
For more information
Elaine Seager, Communications WTSIP – Tel: 0418 710701
Wendy Hughes, Communications Manager MSF Sugar – Tel: 0417 043 954