Reef Programme Improved Farm Activities – Precision Herbicide Application Case Study

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With funding from the Australian Government Reef Program, grower Michael Vella has implemented improved farming practises to assist his family cane farming business. These practices target efficiencies in chemical, nutrient and soil management to achieve water quality improvements and production efficiencies. Michael first decided to become involved in the Reef Programme in 2008 in order to access grants to assist with the cost outlay of a modified legume
planter, GPS unit, tractor steer kit, modified ripper and a high rise spray tractor. Michael was also able to access extension support from Precision Planning Consultants to guide and educate himself on the changes he was making on-farm.

During 2015-16 Reef Catchments provided co-funding, through a water quality grant, to assist Michael in purchasing a four row hooded sprayer. Since operating the hooded sprayer across the farm, Michael has gained efficiencies
in his chemical application by being able to change his rate and herbicide selection. He has noticed a significant reduction in weed pressure in the inter-row space due to the shields of the sprayer. The hooded sprayer has also enabled safe application of knockdown herbicides in the inter-row and less reliance on residual herbicides. Currently the only downside has been that Michael is restricted to spraying four rows at a time. However this inefficiency is more than compensated by effective weed control at a significantly reduced cost.

Michael has not only noticed a cost saving by changing to the hooded sprayer but he considers himself to be playing his part in sustainable agriculture and protecting the local environment. Michael has a vested interest in ensuring his livelihood and his children’s future are safeguarded by looking after his land and surrounding local waterways.

Michael recommends other growers get involved with projects like Reef Programme as it has not only improved the Vella’s farming practices but has also provided one-on-one extension support to assist with farm planning. Michael will continue to trial new technology, business ideas, crop rotations and farming practices because he believes “even if at first you don’t succeed you can only improve with time.”

Being involved with Reef Programme has helped growers look at neighbours’ paddocks to see what changes they are making, resulting in shared ideas and lessons learned. It is testament to the region to have forward thinking growers who bounce ideas off each other, with Precision Planning Consultants providing support. These growers are looking to improve and are taking the initiative to tackle challenges. This can only help with ensuring younger generations become involved in the cane industry, supporting the long term viability and sustainability of sugar cane.

Monitoring Organisation Reef Catchments

Name Katrina Dent

Phone 4968 4207

Email katrina.dent@reefcatchments.com

Position in organisation General Manager

Activity Type agricultural projects (e.g. projects to improve water quality and/or soil health)

Activity Indicators water quality in freshwater river basins

Activity location Plane catchment

Frequency of monitoring

Monitoring Start Date 01/01/2008

30/06/2016

Location of monitoring data

Date quality / confidence

Website URL http://reefcatchments.com.au/land/reef-rescue/

Collaborators Reef Catchments

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