Reef to benefit from meeting of farmers and researchers

16 Apr 2018

Improving soil health and reducing the environmental impact of coastal farming on the Great Barrier Reef was the focus for 33 farmers and natural resource managers who were meeting with University of Queensland agriculture experts this month.

The group of North Queensland industry practitioners visited farms, companies and researchers in SEQLD to learn about into innovation that delivers environmental benefits.

School of Agriculture and Food Sciences Professor Susanne Schmidt said bringing industry practitioners and UQ experts together allows a direct exchange of ideas and discussion about the latest ideas of innovative farming.

“The farmers appreciate our interest in educating future industry leaders and in providing an impartial discussion forum,” she said.

“We discussed cutting-edge research on biological products that are becoming a staple of farming but that are often not delivering the benefits promised by manufacturers.

“We also discussed how new sugarcane varieties will require less fertiliser, and the future of fertilisers which will increasingly be sourced from agricultural and other wastes and capitalise on advances in green agri-engineering.”

Many farmers are experimenting with diverse practices with the aim to improve soil health, a foundation for sustainable agriculture.

Professor Schmidt, who heads the UQ-Plant Nutrition and Ecophysiology group, said farmers were already very knowledgeable on these topics and the visiting group are early adopters of innovative practices.

Mackay sugarcane grower and Nuffield scholar Simon Mattson, for example, is employing plant diversity and crop rotations to improve soil health, stimulate beneficial soil organisms, and grows sunflowers, chickpeas and other species along with his cane crops.

“Farmers are searching for solutions to reduce inputs and improve practices especially reducing nitrogen losses,” she said.

“UQ researchers are happy to share their latest findings with farmers and see this as a great opportunity to learn and collaborate, building trust and rapport through incremental and sustainable improvements.”

Media: Professor Susanne Schmidt, Susanne.schmidt@uq.edu.au, +61 7 3365 1050.

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