A new report card on the health of the Great Barrier Reef has revealed the banana industry has held its ground in maintaining sound on-farm environmental best practice.
According to the Australian Banana Growers’ Council (ABGC) the 2015 Reef Report Card – conducted by the Federal and Queensland Governments – showed banana growers had one of the highest ratings for best practice results in nutrient and soil management.
The report put all production land within the Great Barrier Reef catchment area under the microscope, measuring improvements in water quality.
ABGC Industry Strategy Manager, Michelle McKinlay said banana growers had recorded a “C” rating in the report card, registering a three per cent increase in land under production using best management practice (BMP) systems in the 12 months between June 2014 and June 2015..
“The ABGC, in conjunction with the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, developed the BMP Environmental Guidelines for the banana industry in 2013,” Ms McKinlay said.
“Since its introduction, more than 50 per cent of all land under banana production had adopted BMP, which we see as a significant achievement, because it shows the industry’s commitment to improving water quality,” she said.
Ms McKinlay said the management priority for the Wet Tropics region was to reduce the amount of nitrogen in the soil that was contained in run-off from banana farms.
She said in the past 20 years many banana growers had significantly reduced the amount of nitrogen they applied – recording a 40 per cent reduction in nitrogen rates during this period.
“This is really good news and a big tick of approval for our growers,” Ms McKinlay said.
“There is always room for improvement and our industry is committed to continuing to work hard towards improved environmental best practice.”
“Thanks to funding from the Queensland and Federal governments, by the end of 2016 the ABGC will have three dedicated Reef Extension officers.”
“These officers will have a full time focus on working with banana growers to help them adopt new practices that will improve the quality of water coming off their farms and entering the Great Barrier Reef lagoon.”
Ms McKinlay said it was the first time the banana industry had had the benefit of full time extension officers and it was hoped that their concentrated efforts would be reflected in the results of future reef report cards.
“The ABGC will continue to encourage growers to match the nutrient application rates to the needs of the crop,” she said.
“Our recently released BetterBunch app will assist growers to keep a better record of the amounts of nutrients being applied.”
From November 1 to December 16, 2016 banana growers will have the opportunity to apply for grants to assist in the implementation of improved farming practices to better manage sediment and nutrient run off.
“The banana industry has engaged technical industry experts and industry champions to help prioritise the management practices that will make a difference to the quality of water leaving farms and entering the reef,” Ms McKinlay said.
“The industry is keen to improve the way it farms to stay profitable and make a difference to the environment.”
Any grower who is interested in the Reef Extension Program or applying for grants can contact Sarah Simpson via email firstname.lastname@example.org.