Lower Burdekin Water Quality Program

Sound agronomic and water quality advice underpinning enduring catchment-scale improvement.

Umbrella approach to delivering extension support and water quality improvements

NQ Dry Tropics is spearheading a co-ordinated series of projects in the Lower Burdekin aimed at improving on-farm efficiency and wetland health to further improve water quality reaching the Great Barrier Reef.

The Lower Burdekin Water Quality Program is funded by the partnership between the Australian Government’s Reef Trust and the Great Barrier Reef Foundation (GBRF).

The program will also help farmers ensure they are compliant with the Queensland Reef Water Quality Regulations, effective from December, 2019.

NQ Dry Tropics has been appointed by GBRF to manage the design of the program and ensure the projects are delivered in a coordinated manner.

Five projects are being delivered by local service providers.

They are:

Burdekin Irrigation Project (BIP)

Increasing Industry Productivity and Profitability Through Transformational, Whole of Systems Sugarcane Approaches that Deliver Water Quality Benefits

Led by Sugar Research Australia (SRA), the Burdekin Irrigation Project will be delivered by a consortium of extension providers:

• Agritech Solutions,
• Burdekin Productivity Services (BPS),
• Farmacist,
• Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (DAF),
• Sugar Research Australia, and
• James Cook University.

The BIP aims to:

  • Transition growers to proven world class, scalable, sustainable and technologically advanced practices in irrigation management.
  • Take a whole-of-systems approach that includes water quality monitoring to ensure other priority issues such as improving nutrient and pesticide management are captured.
  • Maximise industry profitability through smarter irrigation practices.
  • Standardise the process of grower engagement, to a powerful, multi-partnered and cooperative approach that will deliver more value to growers, investors and industry stakeholders.
  • Work across organisations to maximise outcomes from strategic coordination, collaborative linkages and consistent messaging.
Farmacist — Nutrient

Precision to Decision – Nutrient

This project will help to improve efficiencies by applying Precision Agriculture and it will provide growers with nutrient management plans to fine-tune application rates of nitrogen and phosphorous.

Defined management zones for crop yield potential will be developed using data from technologies such as Electrical Conductivity (EC) or Electromagnetic (EM) soil mapping coupled with Satellite Yield mapping to inform management decisions.

Growers will be provided access to previously unavailable data giving them a foundation for the introduction of Precision Agriculture (PA) to assist with nutrient management, soil, irrigation and chemical decision support.

This will improve production and profitability and ensure nutrient and pesticides are applied effectively, ultimately reducing the risk to the Great Barrier Reef.

Farmacist — Pesticide

Project Bluewater 2 – Pesticide

Through targeted science, extension and education, this project focuses on reducing the quantities of active ingredients applied, shifting to lower-toxicity products, shifting from residual herbicide to knockdown herbicide dominated programs and upgrading and improving application equipment and techniques.

Pesticide management decisions for canegrubs will shift to an approach that involves monitoring crop damage and economic risk assessments to avoid excessive application of imidacloprid.

Growers will be encouraged when applying grub control liquid formulations to ensure coulter slots are completely closed or covered in.

Customised farm pesticide management plans, developed with qualified and experienced agronomists and individual on-farm pesticide extension support, will foster implementation of integrated weed management through the fallow and entire sugarcane crop cycle. The plan considers soil types, slope, drainage water flows, weed pressures, cane grub pressure, pesticide selection guidance for lower ecotoxicity products and plans to move to knockdown herbicide programs.

Greening Australia

Lower Burdekin constructed wetland treatment program

The project will focus on restoring normal functionality to wetlands, and, where feasible, adding other treatment functions to improve the quality of water flowing into the Great Barrier Reef lagoon.

The existing wetlands will be separate from current cropping areas but low lying and low productivity areas of cane farms may be used for additional treatment zones (and therefore removing chemical use from potentially high polluting areas). 

Key components to the project include:

• Guidelines for identifying optimal sites, undertaking design, and processing approvals.

• Strategic assessment to identify cost-effective sites across cane land and adjacent areas.

• Restoration activities to improve water quality as well as bring biodiversity and climate mitigation outcomes.


Reef Credits

GreenCollar will work in partnership with local organisations including NQ Dry Tropics, industry organisations, productivity services, agronomists, catchment groups, SRA, Greening Australia, community groups and farmers to mobilise a landscape-scaled approach to delivering water quality outcomes via the implementation of Reef Credit projects.

The project will investigate ways that Reef Credits can supplement other forms of incentives to become an important element in the Lower Burdekin Regional Water Quality Program.

The GBRF Reef Trust Partnership will support a portfolio of projects through a commitment to purchase Reef Credits.

The process requires water quality improvements to be verified, audited and issued in line with an appropriate methodology.