Extension officers train to stay current in a changing world

LDC project partners and landholders work really hard to trial and adopt land management practices to improve water quality flowing to the Great Barrier Reef (GBR).

In February, NQ Dry Tropics hosted a two-day Paddock to Reef Integrated Monitoring, Modelling and Reporting Program (Paddock to Reef (P2R) program) training day in Townsville.

It focused on sugar and grazing commodities, to help clarify P2R reporting requirements for future water quality projects, and was attended by field officers, including the LDC team, delivery partners, Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (DAF) and the Great Barrier Reef Foundation.

As the NRM group for the Burdekin, NQ Dry Tropics gets to work with innovative farmers every day, doing their bit to build resilience into their business operations and improving water quality.

Many projects report to the P2R program, which is why it’s important to us to hold regular training events for key stakeholders. 

Led by the Department of Environment and Science, the P2R program brings together more than 20 organisations and hundreds of people, including Australian and Queensland government agencies, industry bodies, regional Natural Resource Management (NRM) bodies, research organisations and landholders.

The long-term monitoring, evaluation, reporting and improvement program is based on the best available scientific evidence. It integrates monitoring and modelling from the farm paddock to the GBR.

It evaluates management practice adoption and effectiveness, catchment condition, pollutant run-off and marine condition.

The program tracks progress towards the Reef 2050 Water Quality Improvement Plan. Results help measure the success of actions and guide investment priorities and future measures by identifying cost-effective approaches to improving water quality.

Milena Gongora (Great Barrier Reef Foundation), and Georg Wandrag (NQ Dry Tropics) at the grazing training day.

Department of Agriculture and Fisheries staff members (from left) Alice Bambling, Peta Stockwell and Alex Thomson with (back row) Josh Nicholls (left) and Rodger Walker from NQ Dry Tropics.

Ben Hanrahan Greening Australia, (left) with Rob Hunt NQ Dry Tropics, and Martha Kusetic Greening Australia.

Adam Northey from the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (right) with NQ Dry Tropics’ staffers Joe O’Reagain, and Linda Anderson.

Chris Poole NQ Dry Tropics, (left) with Paul Humphreys Department of Agriculture and Fisheries.

Bernie Claussen NQ Dry Tropics (left), and Billie Gordon, Department of Enrvironment and Science.

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Figure 1. Total fine sediment reduction by project type and erosion source. Inset shows the proportion of the total project area for each project type.

These estimates have been calculated using two methods: 

1) The pollutant reduction component of the Alluvium/Great Barrier Reef Foundation (GBRF) investment tool for hillslope and streambank erosion management projects; 

2) The Reef Trust Gully Toolbox method for gully erosion management projects. The LDC Water Quality Report 2020 (Waterhouse et al., 2020) highlights that a number of assumptions underlay these calculations, therefore these figures should be treated as the best available estimate of sediment reductions to date.

Preventing sediment from reaching the Great Barrier Reef

Each wet season sediment is washed into local waterways and out to the Great Barrier Reef (GBR). 

Most sediment is very fine, and can stay suspended for a long time and can travel great distances. Valuable topsoil is lost from production, and increased concentrations on the reef can be harmful to seagrasses and corals. 

Landholders in the BBB have completed 69 on-ground water quality practice changes, and it is estimated that these have contributed a fine sediment reduction of 6,154 tonnes per year from reaching the GBR. 

Of this, approximately half of the sediment savings are attributable to grazing land management changes on hillslopes and streambanks, and the other half as a result of gully remediation treatments across a broad range of scales, as shown in the graphs above. 

The table below also highlights the relatively small area of intervention in the gully management projects compared to the large sediment savings that these can achieve - 60 per cent of the sediment savings over only 4 per cent of the project area.

Table 1. Estimated sediment reductions (tonnes) from projects completed in the LDC Project to date.

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*GLMWW = Grazing Land Management Wire and Water

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*The Exploring New Incentives activity area has provided an opportunity for graziers to adopt improved land management practices through a range of activities. For some of these properties, it was the first time they signed contracts for on-ground works.

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The LDC project monitors four gully sites (represented in this table) with gold standard equipment and analysis, carried out by CSIRO.

Results have been compiled in a preliminary report from Bartley et al (2020), with the final report expected to be released by the end of 2020. The preliminary report shows all four sites have indicators of improvements, notably the Strathbogie and Mt Wickham sites.

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Reef regulations - grazing, standard conditions

  1. For land in good or fair condition (more than 50 per cent ground cover at 30 September), continue using measures to maintain land condition.
  2. For land in poor condition (less than 50 per cent ground cover at 30 September), steps must be taken to improve land condition.
  3. For land in degraded condition (less than 20 per cent ground cover at 30 September), steps must be taken to improve land condition OR prevent areas from further degrading or expanding.
  4. Keep records of measures taken and also of agricultural chemicals, fertiliser and mill mud or mill ash applied to land.
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