Inaugural Reef Rescue awards recognise top achieving farmers

THE Queensland Farmers’ Federation and the Regional NRM Groups Collective today congratulated the inaugural farmer and grazier winners of the Reef Rescue Awards, unveiled at a ceremony in Cairns this evening (Thursday May 9).

The top achieving farmers have been recognised for their outstanding achievements through involvement in the Reef Rescue program, by completing on farm projects that deliver substantial environmental outcomes and also improve farm productivity.

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Industry innovator receives Reef Rescue Sugarcane award

Considered an innovator in the industry, Marian cane farmer and award finalist Rodney Lamb has a history of adapting and trialling new equipment to increase environmental and economic benefits for growers. Through the Reef Rescue program Rod has been working with Mackay Productivity Services and local NRM Reef Catchments to adapt his inter row spray shields to only spray when there is a weed detected by a sensor nozzle, in what is known as a WeedSeeker. This adaptation has huge potential to reduce herbicide applied over cane properties and the knowledge gained through Rod’s work will be shared by the industry as a whole.

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New over-row sprayer and GPS the keys to efficiency on large Tully family farm

By Jasmine Hunt

Towering above the cane fields at Murray Upper, just south of Tully Township, is a contraption that has allowed sugarcane grower Peter Vecchio to save time and chemical use.

This contraption, also known as an over-row sprayer, is going a long way in assisting Peter to save money and precious time on his cane farms, scattered across the Tully region.

Built from the ground up by Peter and employee Kevin O’Kane, the spray rig has its base on a John Deere 6400 tractor, and is fully GPS automated, rate controlled and auto-steer.

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Cane growing brothers keen for change

Greg, Jamie and Brian Dore are well-known cane farmers in the Euramo region just south of Tully and have received Reef Rescue funding for a zonal offset discing project. This means that only 42% of the total area of their property is being tilled, significantly reducing the amount of soil that is worked.

Including their own farm, the Dores manage over 1,000 hectares of cane land in the district and are keen to participate in industry information sharing events, such as ‘farmers teaching farmers’ days as well as innovative projects like Project Catalyst, which supports cane growers to develop and test new practices in sugarcane production.

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To till or not to till, that is the question

Thanks to funding from the Australian Government’s Reef Rescue Initiative and support from NQ Dry Tropics, north Queensland sugarcane farmer Stephen Lando now knows the answer.

For the past six years, Stephen and his team have been learning how to grow cane with minimal environmental impact and maximum productivity.

One of the ways they’ve learned to improve water quality and reduce carbon emissions while at the same time reducing operating costs, minimising labour and maintaining high productivity is through a process called minimum tillage. Continue Reading…

Building their own machinery works wonders for Gordonvale brothers

On their efficient sugarcane farm on the banks of the Mulgrave River, south of Cairns, the Rossi brothers use innovative drainage and revegetation techniques, high-tech, custom-made farm equipment and fallow cropping to boost productivity and yield.

An old farm with a modern future, the Rossi brothers Mark, Tony and Chris are third generation sugarcane growers. Continue Reading…

Project Catalyst- supporting sustainability through innovative farming

As farmers we certainly don’t want to be seen as environmental vandals. We are working with our natural resource and we’ve got to look after it
Paul Villis, Project Catalyst Farmer, Burdekin

We’ve got to maintain the land in a productive state. You should be able to farm with minimal impact.
David Ellwood, Project Catalyst Farmer, Mackay.

David and Paul are not alone; there are many farmers in Queensland who want to farm sustainably. They are putting in a great effort to balance the need to earn a living from their land with the need to minimise the impacts of farm production on the surrounding landscapes.

The award winning Project Catalyst brings together 72 such sugarcane growers who are working to develop new, sustainable farming practices. Project Catalyst is an innovative partnership between sugarcane growers, Coca-Cola, WWF Australia and regional natural resource management bodies Reef Catchments (Mackay, Whitsunday, Isaac) Ltd, NQ Dry Tropics, and Terrain Natural Resource Management and it has already shown real environmental benefits. Catalyst farmers have improved runoff and drainage water quality of more than 77,500 mega litres over 15500 hectares contributing to significant load reductions reaching the Great Barrier Reef. Continue Reading…

Farmers aren’t cowboys, Cowboys tell schools

The Cowboys and CANEGROWERS recently joined forces in a bid to highlight the importance of sustainable farming practices, beginning with our nation’s youth.

Schools now have access to a fun module about one of Australia’s key agricultural commodities – sugarcane.  By learning about sugarcane through the module, Years 5-7 across Australia are eligible to enter their school to win cool Cowboys prizes.

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ABC-TV’s Landline talks up the positives of Reef Rescue

More than a quarter of a million people tuned into ABC’s Landline program when it featured a special reef and agriculture segment – with over half the viewers being city dwellers.

Landline’s story focused on the Federal Government’s Reef Rescue incentive program compared with recent regulation brought in by the Queensland Government.

Landline was inspired to follow up on the story, after they had seen segments from CANEGROWERS ‘Virtual Bus Tour’ project.  Their intentions were to show the Landline audience some of the technology and good farming practices they had seen on the short cane movies.

The strong message for the Landline program, which has been covering agricultural issues across Australia since 1991, is that there are impressive things going on in cane.

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CANEGROWERS appoints GHD for Baseline Study

With the Reef Rescue program being a 5 year investment by the Australian Government, it is important to understand how effective the program is.  One way to do this is to understand the level of adoption of certain relevant land management practices at the start of the program – using 2008-09 as the baseline – and to understand the level of adoption towards the end of the program.

The Australian Government has requested CANEGROWERS develop a Sugarcane Land Management Practices Baseline by considering industry data and other relevant information.  The  Australian Bureau of Statistics carried out a survey in 2009, however this is just one source of data and the survey did not consider all relevant sugarcane land management practices.  Some regional natural resource management organisations have also developed some baselines but more consistency is required for a total sugar industry picture. Continue Reading…