Catchment Solutions and Reef Catchments are facilitating the Game Changer program to promote farm practices that will significantly reduce the amount of nitrogen and residual herbicides leaving sugarcane farms in runoff and improve the health of the Great Barrier Reef.
The program is run across the three NRM regions of Mackay Whitsunday, NQ Dry Tropics, and Terrain Wet Tropics.
Game Changer works with practices that produce evidence showing they can be applied across farms with sound economic outcomes while significantly increasing the cuts to sugarcane pollutant runoff.
Game Changer is funded through the Australian Government’s Reef Program and works via an active learning approach, partnering sugarcane farmers with agronomists and economists to run on-farm demonstration trials over three years.
The demonstration trials will be opened up to a wider group of growers, and information will be disseminated via a range of channels, including the Sugar Research Australia PEC group.
Water Quality impacts will be tested via rainfall simulation on a selection of farms.
Practices promoted through the program will focus on managing farms at the finest scale possible for the individual farmer, such as by block and, when suitable, by zone (within blocks). In a simple sense this means applying nitrogen for the needs of a sugarcane block with an understanding of the soil requirements and the yield potential of that block.
Other nitrogen-saving practices include taking into account the age of ratoon and late-harvested cane. This can also be applied to herbicide management by, for example, applying herbicides required for the weed pressure within the block or areas within the block.
Participating growers will be supported with the supply of information required to make these decisions and QDAFF economists will work with the growers to find the long-term economic returns.
All sugarcane growers participating in Reef Program are able to apply for funding and support to undertake Game Changer farm management practices.