Farmer profile - Mark Rossato
Mark and Carol Rossato have farmed sugar cane near Home Hill in the lower Burdekin for over 30 years.
They have seen some significant changes in the industry and the environment in that time, including the loss of natural areas, the death of many old trees, and an increase in weeds such as paragrass and hymenachne.
Much of the clearing was done decades ago and they say the community is now witnessing the long-term effects of declining ecosystems.
Mark is driven by the need to “build the perfect soil” using holistic farming principles and minimal working of the ground. Rather than continuing to mine the land, the Rossatos’ interest is in building the land’s capacity for life and productivity.
By using electromagnetic induction (EM) mapping of soils, fertiliser can be applied at different rates across a paddock, based on actual soil needs. This means less fertiliser is used and less excess is wasted through run-off. Mark intends to link the fertiliser application data to actual yield data to fine-tune the productivity of each paddock.
By shifting to minimal tillage and controlling the traffic that impacts the ground, Mark has not only improved the soil health and water infiltration capacity, but he estimates he has reduced his need to sit on a tractor from thousands of hours a year to less than 200 hours. This reduces greenhouse emissions and gives him more time to do the important jobs of managing a modern farming operation.
When asked what they think their actions do to make a difference to the future health of the reef, the Rossatos’ said “Our efforts are just one part of it, together everyone’s actions can help the Reef”.