Cairns region farmers invest for Great Barrier Reef protection
GORDONVALE cane grower John Ferrando is among a record number of farmers in the Far North who are investing in environmentally friendly practices to improve soil quality and reduce chemical runoff to the Great Barrier Reef.
The Commonwealth has doled out almost $5 million this year to farmers in the Wet Tropics through its Reef Rescue Water Quality Incentive Grants scheme.
The funds, administered by Terrain Natural Resources Management, will be split between 271 projects that aim to improve water quality by reducing the use of harsh chemicals and fertilisers on farms.
Mr Ferrando applied for a grant this year to switch to a more environmentally friendly practice for killing weeds in his cane crop.
He was given $30,000 to subsidise a $120,000 high rise tractor, which will enable him to drive above 4m tall cane and spray his crop with environmentally friendly chemicals that kill weeds after they’ve grown.
"This (new) spray is a knockdown spray that is inactive once it hits the soil and leaves no chemical residue," Mr Ferrando said.
"You'll use more environmentally friendly chemicals and then you don't get anymore runoff to the Reef."
The push by more farmers to protect the Reef comes amid a sobering report from the Australian Institute of Marine Science this week that revealed 50 per cent of its coral has disappeared over the past 27 years, in part because of poor water quality.
Terrain CEO Carole Sweatman was pleased so many Far Northern farmers took up the offer of financial help to begin new practices that could prevent further damage to the Reef.
"This is a fantastic result for both the Wet Tropics environment and farmers in the region," she said.
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Doing the right thing: Gordonvale cane grower John Ferrando.