Ground rules keeping growers a cut above

Ground rules keeping growers a cut above

Living groundcover reduces runoff by minimising the impact of rainfall and increasing the amount of water taken up by the soil. This reduces erosion and losses from your farm.

Ground cover can also contribute to improved soil biology and soil health. This means improved nutrient cycling and more nutrients available to feed your crop.

So, how do we grow great ground cover on banana farms?

Molly Blake, Extension Officer with the ABGC’s Best Practice team, has been leading a project to answer that question.

“We all know ground cover is great. We also know that it is usually pretty easy to grow in the Wet Tropics. But when we start farming the land, ground cover can become a bit tricky to manage,” Molly said.

“Growers want to maintain ground cover, but they don’t want it to get in the way of getting the job done. For us to help growers grow great ground cover, we need to better understand how the way they farm impacts their ground cover.”

To do this, Molly set out to survey 40 farms across the Cassowary Coast region.

“First, I asked growers about how they farmed. Questions like how wide are your interrows, how often do you use the slasher, and how effective is farm drainage,” Molly explained.

Ground cover levels were then measured using a drone, which flew above the participating farms to capture high-resolution images of a few blocks. These images were processed and analysed to produce a ground cover percentage for each block.

So, what did we find?

Banana growers are growing great ground cover. The majority of farm blocks surveyed had well above the 60% ground cover required by the Reef protection regulations.

“It’s not surprising,” Amelia Foster, ABGC’s Best Practice Coordinator, said. “We’ve been seeing more and more ground cover on bananas farms across the region over the past several years. Now we have the numbers to back that up.”

Pairing the ground cover percentages with the farming practices survey, some of the key practices associated with ground cover included traffic reduction measures and contoured rows.

“This information will help us to identify with growers how to tweak their practices to grow better ground cover and reduce sediment loss from farms,” Amelia said. “It’s also encouraging to see that effective farm planning, which includes reducing block gradients and promoting wider interrows, can actually help”.

Growers interested in learning more about the project, or discussing how drones could benefit your farming operation, can contact Molly at 0419 602 864 or

ABGC would like to extend a massive thank you to all the growers who participated in the project and industry experts who contributed to its success.