Results show cane growers improving reef water quality

Burdekin sugarcane growers are adopting improved management practices for a more sustainable and productive farming future – and the results are in to prove it.

The latest Reef Water Quality Report Card from the Paddock to Reef Integrated Monitoring, Modelling and Reporting Program (Paddock to Reef program) has recognised the achievements of Burdekin growers improving nutrient, irrigation and pesticide management, with progress towards the critical Dissolved Inorganic Nitrogen (DIN) target achieving an A ranking.

Dissolved Inorganic Nitrogen (DIN) leaving Burdekin catchments reduced by 4.5 per cent per cent in 2019, the equivalent of about 40 tonnes. The greatest annual reduction for DIN in the Burdekin region was in the Haughton catchment, a reduction of five per cent.

NQ Dry Tropics Program Manager for Sustainable Agriculture Rob Hunt said the adoption of management practices to improve water quality in the Burdekin included increases of more than six per cent in improved nutrient management practices, 2. per cent in irrigation practices and 0.9 per cent in pesticide management.

Mr Hunt said the results were driven by the Australian Government funded Reef Alliance Project and Reverse Sugar Tender and the Queensland Government funded Burdekin Nutrient Management project.

“These projects have yielded excellent results and we expect to see an acceleration in improved DIN and pesticide management in the next Reef Water Quality Report Card,” Mr Hunt said.

He said pesticides continue to be a priority and improvements from projects underway now were expected to be reflected in future Reef Water Quality Report Cards.

In 2019 tropical cyclones Penny and Owen had a significant influence on the region which resulted in discharge from the Burdekin region being four times the long-term average. Seagrass and inshore water quality declined but inshore coral remained in moderate condition.

The Paddock to Reef program provides the framework for evaluating and reporting progress towards the Reef 2050 water quality targets through the Reef Water Quality Report Card. The program is jointly funded by the Australian and Queensland governments.

The Reef Water Quality Report Card results will be discussed at NQ Dry Tropics’ Sugar Cane Regional Integrated Science Forum in Ayr at the PCYC on Wednesday, 31 March. 

The aim of the forum is to bring together local extension officers, government, science and industry representatives to hear about the latest science and discuss the future direction of regional water quality projects, and implementation of the Paddock to Reef program in the Burdekin region.

For further information about the forum, contact NQ Dry Tropics Paddock to Reef Project Officer Jade Fraser by email

NQ Dry Tropics Project Officer Michael Hobb, left, with cane grower Anthony Minuti.

Anthony Minuti checking systems on the farm.