Reducing fertiliser run-off

Duration 00:02:01

Reducing fertiliser run-off to protect the Great Barrier Reef.

Jayson Dowie: [00:00:00]

Everybody is putting in a really great effort to, you know, maintain production improve yields and be environmentally aware and look after what we've got with the Great Barrier Reef.

Dr Sven Uthicke: [00:00:14]

Nutrients or nutrient run-off can have various impacts on the Great Barrier Reef. Amongst those are the potential of increasing crown-of-thorns starfish outbreaks. Crown-of-thorns are a natural part of the reef. However on the Barrier Reef and many other reefs worldwide, these episodically break out. They eat too many corals so the corals can't recover. That's specifically bad during stress events like the current bleachings we have.

Jayson Dowie: [00:42]

It's all about understanding this. We work with the growers to understand it and if we understand it correctly then, you know, we keep the Reef as resilient as possible because we are keeping all of our fertiliser on the farm. We've saved about 82 tonnes of nitrogen over the four and a half thousand hectares in the project for the first year growers alone. It's a journey between us and the growers.

John Quagliata: [00:1:07]

Having projects like what Jason and Heidi are in it’s educated me and I've been growing cane for a long time. We've always gone to the Reef because it is a natural wonder and it's just beautiful. And I want it to be there for my grandchildren for their kids to enjoy. This plan that we're under, I reckon it's a great way and the more people that take it on board the better it's going to be.

Charles Quagliata: [00:1:28]

Our main aim is to get the plant to use exactly what it needs.

John Quagliata: [00:1:32]

And no waste.

Charles Quagliata: [00:1:33]

Putting the right rate on. Better in our pocket. Better for the Reef. Better for everything.

Jayson Dowie: [00:1:38]

Together we can sort of figure out a really good way forward on how to optimise their production while reducing their input costs. Therefore it's more sustainable, the community benefits, the environment benefits, the grower benefits, it's a win-win for everybody.

Improving farming practices in the Wet Tropics.

Duration 00:00:43

Carole Sweatman: [00:00:04]

One of the most exciting projects we’re working on in the Wet Tropics is called the Major Integrated Project. It’s working in the Johnstone and the Tully catchments in the Wet Tropics.

Carole Sweatman: [00:00:12]

The key thing with the Major Integrated Project is it’s not just about water quality for the Reef, it’s about sustainable communities.

Carole Sweatman: [00:00:20]

This project is really important to us because it’s about a grassroots design.

Carole Sweatman: [00:00:23]

Rural communities in Queensland are really important to everybody, those small towns, we’ve been through disasters, we’ve got ups and downs with agricultural prices but we’re all trying to work together in actually ensuring that we’re here for the long-term.

Fertilisers are essential to farming. They provide crops with the nutrients they need to grow.

Unfortunately, losing fertiliser in farm run-off into local waterways is not only causing farmers to lose valuable product that they would prefer not to waste, it also leads to degraded water quality on the Reef, impacting Reef health and its resilience to climate change. This run-off is also a contributor to the outbreaks of coral-eating crown-of-thorns starfish (COTS). COTS outbreaks are one of the major factors contributing to coral cover decline across the Great Barrier Reef.

Many people are working hard to ensure Queensland has productive and profitable farms and a thriving Great Barrier Reef. This is why farmers are working with agronomists and natural resource management groups to apply best practice management approaches to reduce fertiliser run-off.

Declining marine water quality is recognised as one of the most significant threats to the long-term health of the Great Barrier Reef. The Queensland Reef Water Quality Program funds a range of projects working with industry, agricultural producers and communities to reduce run-off.


Complete nutrient management planning projects have been supporting sugarcane growers to improve their nutrient management, profitability and productivity since 2016 while delivering water quality benefits for the Reef.

They provide sugarcane growers with a tailored nutrient management plan and one year of on-farm agronomic support to improve their whole-of-farm management.

Nearly 700 farms covering almost 70,000 hectares have been involved in the projects, reducing nitrogen application by nearly 900 tonnes.

Photo courtesy of Terrain NRM

Wet Tropics’ sugarcane and banana growers, along with local community members, scientists, industry and technical experts, designed a Major Integrated Project (MIP) to reduce nutrient and pesticide losses and improve water quality in local waterways and on the Great Barrier Reef.

Some key components of the Wet Tropics’ MIP included trialling catchment repair and treatment systems, increasing support of growers with access to extension staff, local scale water monitoring, and more.

With a significant investment and a ground up approach, the Major Integrated Projects were a ground-breaking innovation aimed at achieving accelerated water quality outcomes in the Wet Tropics and Burdekin.

Across industry and the Queensland and Australian governments, there are a number of other programs and support tools that help producers adopt improved farming practices and reduce nutrient run-off.

How you can help

From the Great Barrier Reef to Moreton Bay, all Queensland waterways are connected. For example, avoiding littering, wherever you live, will prevent litter getting into waterways and making its way to the Great Barrier Reef. If you live in Reef catchment areas, you can make sure soil and fertiliser stays on your property.

And regardless of where you live, you can take actions to reduce your carbon footprint to ease the stress on the planet.

Find out more about how you can help.