Like other primary producers, Tony Pashley and his partner Rae Stuart face many challenges relating to farming in close proximity to the Great Barrier Reef (GBR).
The couple farm macadamias in the Kolan River catchment of the Burnett Basin less than 8.5 km from the GBR coastline.
Four years ago they embarked on a significant change to their production system planting 24 hectares of macadamias. They are currently in the process of planting a further 20 hectares which will bring their macadamia orchard up to 15,000 trees.
Establishing their orchard has required the couple to plan ahead and consult with other growers, experts and industry bodies such as Growcom for guidance on what is considered best management practice and to ensure their impact on the GBR lagoon is minimal.
“Issues such as farm layout considerations, variety selection, water management – application method and run-off, and financial planning are extremely important,” Tony said.
“A wrong decision in these early stages has the potential for long term impact on the success of our new venture.”
A major challenge at this early stage has been verifying the information and guidance provided. Sifting through eons of online information and resources while simultaneously trying to identify information that is independent, well-researched and not commercially biased.
This is where Hort360 has become a useful ‘go to’ for the couple.
“It is such a significant investment and we didn’t know what we were looking for while we were in the process of establishing our orchard,” Tony said.
“That’s why I believe Hort360 has benefited our business – all the resources are available and located in the one place.”
Tony and Rae discovered Hort360 last year while working with Growcom to secure Reef Trust funding for a small on-farm project. They completed four modules – irrigation, nutrition, sediment and pesticide – achieving results which are consistent with other growers.
Hort360 generated a report and an action plan based on responses to the questions in each module. The plan identified opportunities for improvement to meet ‘best practice’.
The Reef Trust grant funding was used to purchase and install soil moisture probes and a weather station. This improved irrigation practices by recording rainfall events and automatically adjusting irrigation accordingly.
Additionally, the weather station used the on-farm weather conditions to inform the couple on the optimum time to spray for pests and weeds.
In addition to this automation, Tony and Rae also modified the farm layout and positioning of headlands, to slow and therefore improve their management of run-off.
With emerging opportunities to undertake further on-farm practice change, Tony and Rae are looking to what other improvements they can make to their farm.
“Doing this has got me thinking about increasing buffer zones to slow run-off, and it has also got me thinking about creating a wetland that will filter and improve water quality,” Tony said.
“The wetland and its environmental benefit is an opportunity for us to feel satisfied and fulfilled that we’re not impacting the environment as we all have an environmental responsibility,” Tony said.
For more information or to get involved with the Hort360 Great Barrier Reef project, contact:
0428 586 890
0477 588 677
The Hort360 Great Barrier Reef (GBR) project is managed by Growcom and funded by the Queensland Government Reef Water Quality program.