Existing Reef protection regulations

Support programs and tools for cane farmers

Across industry, and the Queensland and Australian governments, there are a number of programs and support tools that help cane farmers adopt best farming practices. Queensland Government is also continuing to invest in science projects that improve our understanding of the issues facing the Reef and develop tools to support cane farmers to undertake the most appropriate management practices to suit their specific conditions.

Support programs for cane farmers

The Smartcane Best Management Practice (BMP) program is an industry developed, robust and practical system that is about improving productivity, profitability and sustainability of farm enterprises. Through the Smartcane BMP, growers self-assess their practices to determine if they are ‘below’, ‘at’, or ‘above’ the industry standard. If their activities are below the industry standard, the system shows what they would need to do to reach that standard. Help is also available through local facilitators, who can also assist to have their BMPs independently accredited.

Meeting the Smartcane BMP ‘industry standard’ in the following modules will also help you meet the regulated standards. These will most likely save you money, while assisting in minimising the risk of nutrients, pesticides and sediment leaving the property and impacts on the health of the Reef.

  • Soil Health and Nutrient Management
  • Irrigation and Drainage Management
  • Weed, Pest and Disease Management

For more information or to register for Smartcane BMP, please contact the CANEGROWERS BMP Project Manager, Mick Quirk on 0408 748 141 or email

The SIX EASY STEPS™ program, developed by Sugar Research Australia, is a grower-friendly nutrient management program, used to improve nutrient management, The SIX EASY STEPS™ (PDF, 148KB).

To find out more about the The SIX EASY STEPS™ approach or who might be able to assist you locally, please contact Sugar Research Australia.

Local cane productivity services provide extension and research into Queensland's sugar cane industry. District productivity services provide advice to sugar cane farmers on pests, diseases, herbicides, fertilisers, and how to enhance the profitability and productivity of your farm.

Regional Natural Resource Management bodies, such as TerrainNQ Dry Tropics and Reef Catchments frequently run programs to assist farmers and graziers to improve their land and water health.

Reef Trust is an Australian Government initiative that provides innovative and targeted investment focused on improving water quality, restoring coastal ecosystem health and enhancing species protection in the Great Barrier Reef region.

Phase 4 Trialling of enhanced efficiency fertilisers has co-invested funds to support the broader trialling of enhanced efficiency fertilisers and accelerate the evaluation of the technology as a strategy to reduce the loss of nitrogen to the Reef.

Phase 4 Repeated tenders will engage farmers in the Wet Tropics and Burdekin natural resource management regions to improve their nitrogen fertiliser and farm management practices to reduce pollutant run off into the Reef lagoon.

Phase 5 Supporting cane farmers to move beyond industry best practice is an investment by the sugarcane industry and the Australian Government to improve on-farm nutrient management and improve the quality of water entering the Reef.

The Water Quality Grants and Partnership component of the Australian Government Reef Programme aims to increase the voluntary uptake of improved land management practices by landholders that will reduce the discharge of sediments, nutrients and pesticides into the Great Barrier Reef lagoon. Please contact your local Natural Resource Management organisation for further information on participating in this Programme.

Reef Alliance is a partnership between industry and NRM bodies who work closely with communities, private business and government to deliver farm specific and whole of landscape projects in reef catchments. Visit the Reef Alliance website to find out about the projects you could access through Reef Alliance.

What support can the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries offer?

Various extension programs operate across the Reef catchments. The Queensland Government’s Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (DAF) extension staff offer financial tools and technical support to cane farmers in Great Barrier Reef catchments to improve farm profitability, productivity and environmental outcomes. Extension staff can help plan, test and adopt different farm and business approaches, such as optimising nutrient inputs, integrated weed management, fallow management, action planning, record keeping and promotion of economic cost benefit analysis.

For more information about DAF extension programs or biosecurity matters, please email or call 13 25 23.

Support tools for cane farmers

NutriCalc™ is an online nutrient management tool and part of Sugar Research Australia’s Six Easy Steps™ nutrient management package. Jointly developed with the National Centre for Engineering in Agriculture (NCEA) this tool can help growers develop nutrient management plans for use on-farm.

The Farm Economic Analysis Tool (FEAT) is a planning and decision-making tool developed to assist cane farming enterprises. FEAT gauges the economic impact of changing from one farming system to another.

SafeGauge for Nutrients is a decision support tool available to help Queensland cane farmers assess the risk of off-site nutrient movement by developing effective nutrient management strategies. This tool provides technical support for adjusting fertiliser management to minimise risk of off-site loss and raising awareness of nutrient loss pathways.

View the SafeGauge video to find out more about what it can do and how you can use it.

FertFinder is a new online tool developed by Sugar Research Australia to help cane farmers and advisors select the right fertiliser blend in their region to match the nutritional requirements in their paddock. It also helps filter through the hundreds of fertiliser products available on the market.

Controls on chemical use provided by DAF, is also a useful guideline for safe use of agricultural and veterinary chemicals.

In this guide:

  1. How does this impact cane farmers?
  2. How does this impact graziers?
  3. Impacts of nutrient and pesticide run-off from cane farming
  4. Impacts of sediment run-off from grazing
  5. Support programs and tools for cane farmers
  6. Support programs and tools for graziers
  7. Best management practice in reef catchments
  8. Managing agricultural chemicals
  9. Nutrient calculation and soil sampling

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