The 2018 Innovative Nitrogen Use in Sugarcane Forum held in Cairns in November was a major success with 130 attendees taking part in collaborative discussion on the subject of nitrogen runoff in the Great Barrier Reef catchment.

Water quality scientists and sugarcane farmers deep in discussion at the Innovative Nitrogen Use in Sugarcane Forum. Photo by RRRC

The forum featured presentations from several key Tropical Water Quality Hub presentations including Project 25 (promoting behavioural change through fine-scale water quality monitoring), Project 3.1.2 (using Internet of Things technology to improve irrigation management), Project 2.1.8 (trialing enhanced efficiency fertilizers for reducing total nitrogen use) and Project 4.10 (evaluating the potential of converting marginal cane land to wetlands).

Growers were also able to get their voices heard on subjects important to them including the delays between practice change (and associated risk) and seeing results in water quality improvement.

A good example of the success of the forum’s intent – to get farmers and water quality scientists talking to each other – was a discussion during a lunch break between Mossman grower Scott Fasano and Dr Peter Thorburn from CSIRO, who talked about wetland conversion.

Bringing people together – Grower Scott Fasano shakes hands with Dr Peter Thorburn from CSIRO. Photo by RRRC

“It was great [to talk to Dr Thorburn],” said Mr Fasano.

“I was pulling out my phone to see my farm on Google Maps and pointing out spots on the property that would make good wetland. I think there’s a lot of potential in it.”

Matt Kealley, CANEGROWERS Senior Manager for Membership and Innovation, said limiting nitrogen runoff was important for both the health of the Great Barrier Reef and the farmers’ business.

“In the last five years, the cane industry has made tremendous strides in science and research underpinning practices to improve the effective use of nitrogen in farming,” he said.

“All of this supports grower production and reduces impact on the Reef.”


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