Cane growers in the know open their gates to the public

Published: 02/03/2012

Lower Burdekin cane farmers are opening their gates to the public to showcase innovative farming practices that help minimise and reverse impacts on the Great Barrier Reef.

Farmers Will and Johnellan Lucas and Vince and Rita Papale, part of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority's Reef Guardian Farmers program, are keen to share their ideas with the community and other growers.

Mr Papale said the program encouraged farmers to work together to improve water efficiency and the application of chemicals and fertilisers to and preserve the natural values of downstream habitats.

"We really need to look at the opportunities and constraints together because the cane industry has a big influence on the water flowing through the wetlands and to the Great Barrier Reef," Mr Papale said.

Mr Papale said managing water resources in the Burdekin was the key to sustainable farming and protecting the Reef.

"My family has been growing cane on this property since 1976, and after two generations of farming I had been watching some trends," he said.

"Most significantly, yields were declining whilst the costs of production kept increasing."

Since then the Papales have improved yields through understanding and adjusting their water use, and reduced their production costs by fine-tuning fertiliser applications.

Will and Johnellen Lucas also adjusted their irrigation practices on their cane farm to conserve water and are installing a water recycling pit to capture run-off.

"These changes have helped us to halve our water use since my father farmed here, from 40 megalitres to 20 megalitres per hectare," Mr Lucas said.

The Reef Guardian Farmer pilot program recognises the great environmental work being undertaken by farmers in the Great Barrier Reef catchment.

Local program participants will meet with technical advisors and industry representatives to discuss their work, before touring local properties that have new irrigation and fertiliser systems, a water recycling pit, and a newly established wetlands area.

The tour will be held on Monday 12 March (departing from Ayr and Home Hill) and is open to the public. To confirm your attendance or for more information please contact Kate Steel at the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority on (07) 4951 3454.

Name: GBRMPA media
Contact: 07 4750 0846