It has been a busy few months for commercial horticulture growers and industry stakeholders in the Great Barrier Reef (GBR) catchments, and not just out in the paddock. More than 200 people recently participated in a series of soil and nutrition focused workshops delivered by Growcom through the Hort360 GBR Best Management Practice (Hort360 GBR) program. 

The Hort360 GBR program, which recently launched a Reef Certification framework, specifically focusses on environmental stewardship and industry best practice standards in Reef catchments that will deliver improved water quality. 

The series of workshops comprised of a half day Understanding Soils workshop, followed by an intensive two-day Soils and Nutrition Masterclass held in Amamoor, Theebine, Wetheron, Mundubbera, South Yaamba and Bondoola. Each workshop included a visit and paddock walk, providing commercial horticulture growers the opportunity to gain insight into how other growers are managing issues such as ground cover, soil variability, infiltration, soil health, and reducing losses of sediment. Participating growers represented a diverse array of commodities including herbs, mangoes, blueberries, sweet potatoes, lychees, macadamias, pineapples, pecans, bananas, citrus and avocados. This added an additional layer of interest to the workshops as growers were able to discuss the variations between their farming systems. 

Hort360 GBR Facilitator and series coordinator Michelle Haase facilitated small group sessions, grower discussions and a hands-on component with an infield soils pit. Participating growers had the opportunity to discuss their on-farm soil based issues and questions with independent agronomist David Hall who delivered the soils and nutrition content, as well as with agronomists from E.E.Muir, Nutrien-Ag Solutions, Qld Organics, and Verterra.  

Growers attending the workshops also participated in the Hort360 GBR program by completing one or more Hort360 modules. The benchmarking information growers receive by completing the modules provides growers with an understanding of how their current farming practices align to industry’s own best management practices and identify where there is opportunity to change a practice for improved efficiencies. These results also assist Growcom to plan and develop future workshops and resources for growers to assist in areas where most support is needed to achieve best practice.   

Feedback from the series has been extremely positive, with many growers seeking further support for more soils knowledge and understanding, and other issues such as spray technology and calibration practice, and irrigation efficiencies.   

Some of the growers in attendance will be amongst the first to become Reef Certified. By completing the relevant Hort360 GBR BMP modules, and undertaking an independent audit, these growers will be demonstrating their environmental stewardship and optimising their business operations at the same time.  

For more information about the Hort360 GBR project and becoming Reef Certified, contact your closest Hort360 GBR Facilitator: 

Michelle Haase 
Southern GBR 

Eilis Walker 
Central GBR  

Lindsay Allen 
Northern GBR 

The Hort360 GBR BMP is funded through the Queensland Government’s Reef Water Quality Program and the events are supported by the Burnett Mary Regional Group and Fitzroy Basin Association’s Regional Agricultural Landcare Facilitator funding from the Australian Government’s National Landcare Program.