A monitoring project in the Burdekin has found that up to 20 percent of irrigation used on participating cane farms is being lost to runoff – costing growers money on fertilisers and water.  

NQ Dry Tropics’ Landscape Resilience project monitored irrigation events on farms located around the Lilliesmere Lagoon sub catchment, near Ayr.

The project, funded by the Queensland Government’s Regional Natural Resource Management Investment Program, aimed to help growers better understand the extent of their irrigation losses, and how excess runoff affects water quality in adjacent wetland systems and the Great Barrier Reef.

NQ Dry Tropics’ Project Officer Lisa Pulman said that participating farmers received a monitoring report, as well as advice on how to address their water losses.

“These detailed results provided growers with data they need to make practice changes to reduce water losses, such as updating irrigation pumps, and installing recycle pits to capture and reuse runoff on crops, Ms Pulman said.

“These changes will save money, and also help prevent excess water entering waterways, where it contributes to weed growth that impacts fish and bird habitat”, she said.

Participating grower Paul Villis said that having hard data on water losses was the first step towards fixing the issue:

“Before we started this project we didn’t have numbers on what’s running off, so once you’ve got the numbers you can look at doing something about it”, Mr Villis said.

“We’re looking at going to automated flood irrigation, so instead of actually having to be here to change the sets when they’re through, they’ll automatically change to the next set. Hopefully it’s a win-win, for our business and also the environment”, he said.

Main photo: NQ Dry Tropics Project Officer Lisa Pulman with Ayr cane grower Paul Villis.