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$5.6 million to reach reef targets in the Murray and Mossman

By 11/June/2021

The Mossman and Murray river catchments are on course to meet their reef water quality targets with a new $5.6 million investment announced by Federal Environment Minister Sussan Ley.

‘Mobilising the Murray and Mossman’ will build on previous water quality initiatives supporting farmers with land management practice changes to reduce runoff of nutrients, sediment and pesticides. The new project will focus on helping sugarcane growers to minimise the loss of excess nutrients by matching fertiliser applications to crop requirements.   

Stewart Christie, CEO at Terrain NRM, welcomed the additional investment and said the project was targeting win-win solutions for farming businesses and water quality. 

“These catchments have already made really good progress towards the current catchment targets within Australia’s Reef 2050 Plan, with farmers adopting best management practices for water quality and implementing a variety of changes,” he said. 

“This initiative is a boost to help reach targets, in both water quality and productivity.”  

Funded by the Australian Government’s Reef Trust, the project is being delivered by Terrain NRM, Mossman Agricultural Services and Canegrowers Tully.  Agricultural extension officers and agribusiness providers will work with cane farmers to identify factors inhibiting the uptake of fertiliser by plants.   

Peter Lucy, Manager at Canegrowers Tully, said constraints included compacted soils, sandy soils, weeds and poor drainage. 

“The more we can help farmers address these constraints to their crop yields, the more we can prevent excess fertiliser losses running off into waterways,” he said.  “The solution is different for every farm so it’s important to provide one-on-one support to farmers to identify and address their individual crop constraints.

“The Tully Extension Network has been providing extension support to sugarcane growers for several years now and this project will help us to continue supporting growers to refine their land management practices.”  

Rebecca McHardie, Agronomist at Mossman Agricultural, said the biggest and most widespread limitation for cane productivity in the Mossman district was Ratoon Stunting Disease (RSD), a bacterial disease.

“One of our main focuses will be cleaning up RSD in our district to improve yields, which will have a knock-on effect on water quality,’’ she said.  “We plan to tie this in with whole-farm planning and a focus on soil health and fallow management.”  

Mr Christie said the key to the success of reef water quality programs was finding solutions that benefitted farmers as well as the reef. 

“The scale of work going on across our region to improve water quality flowing to the Great Barrier Reef is phenomenal and the latest Report Cards are showing positive results,” he said. 

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