Best practice farming trial has positive result

An innovative stormwater quality management project has saved a local farmer $35,000 over two years.

Walkerston cane farmer Darrell McLennan first partnered with council and Reef Catchments in 2016 to trial new best practice farming techniques.

They promised both cost savings for the farmer and less impact on the environment and the results of the two-year trial proved better than expected.

Mr McLennan said his farm has never performed better, with less work.

“I’ve achieved savings in both diesel and a reduction in the time it takes to get the soil ready for cropping,” he said.

“The trial involved introducing new machinery that has reduced the number of times the soil has to be tilled and implementing a GPS-controlled tractor to guide the new machinery in a precise line.

“The results have been great – instead of working the soil six to seven times, it only takes two to three workings to achieve the same results.

“This has also allowed me to reduce my chemical and fertiliser usage, which has positive effects for the environment.”

Currently, Mr McLennan is only carrying out the trial on one-third of his 600-acre farm.

But after his positive experience with the program, he plans to stage an expansion to his entire farm over the next five years.

“I’m a fourth-generation cane farmer and have worked in the industry for 37 years, and we have never been as close to best practice as we are now,” Mr McLennan said.

“I’d encourage anyone who is keen to see better profit margins from their farm and reduce the time they spend working while helping the environment, to give it a go.”

Council was pleased to see such positive results from the trial after matching the initial costs of the new machinery dollar for dollar and providing access to an agronomic specialist.

Development Services director Gerard Carlyon said council hoped more farmers would consider implementing similar practices.

“Investing in on-farm improvement practices through this project has helped showcase that these techniques can reduce the amount of chemicals needed in typical farming practices, which is a great result for the environment,” he said.

“The final report of the trial on Darrell’s farm revealed a 2200kg  reduction in nitrogen, 1200kg reduction in phosphorus, 150L reduction in herbicide and a 240,000kg reduction in sediment loss per annum.

“Less chemicals, means less costs for the farmer and healthier waterways for our region, including the Great Barrier Reef.”

Farmers who are interested in this project are encouraged to get in touch with Reef Catchments for more details about the trial and how they can implement something similar on their farm.