Nitrogen use on cane farms to be studied

NITROGEN use on cane farms will be studied in a ground-breaking partnership between the Queensland Government and Sugar Research Australia (SRA).

Environment Minister Dr Steven Miles said combined funding of $2.4 million over three years would go towards five cane farming research projects.

"The projects aim to enhance nitrogen use efficiency on cane farms, improving management practices and protecting the Great Barrier Reef," Dr Miles said.

Dr Miles said the projects would support the refinement of industry standards for nitrogen use and assist industry to adopt more precise agriculture practices.

"We want to help farmers ensure that as much fertiliser as possible is taken up by the plant, saving them money and reducing runoff to the reef.

"This government is encouraging the uptake of better practices to get us to where we need to be by 2025 in terms of reducing our impacts on the Great Barrier Reef.

"By helping identify improved farming practices through the latest science, this investment over the next three years will help us progress our reef water quality targets."

SRA Chairman Paul Wright welcomed the joint partnership.

"SRA is focused on delivering valued solutions for a growing sugarcane industry," Mr Wright said.

"This partnership will assist SRA to continue to achieve that vision by helping growers to improve farm efficiency, while also delivering positive environmental outcomes."

A nitrogen use efficiency steering group, co-chaired by SRA and the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection, has also been formed.

The group aims to align and maximise research investment into nitrogen use efficiency across industry, government and research organisations.

Nitrogen use efficiency has been identified as an important issue by the Great Barrier Reef Water Science Taskforce, tasked with providing advice to the Queensland Government on how to achieve its ambitious reef water quality improvement targets.

The funded research projects are:

  • Innovative soil testing to help determine nitrogen rates to inform the development of a nitrogen decision support toolfor use by famers
  • Field experiments to determine appropriate nitrogen application rates where yield potential is constrained, such as poor soil condition, in a bid to improve profitability
  • Examination of yield potential across a district in the Wet Tropics to improve nitrogen use efficiency by local farmers
  • Studies to investigate ways to slow down the release of nitrogen which occurs naturally in legumes to increase long term soil fertility and reduce fertiliser use
  • Incorporate climate forecasting into nitrogen management in the Wet Tropics to enhance the industry's ability to determine and apply optimal nitrogen rates by 2025.

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