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Farming on the Great Barrier Reef

For over a decade, farmers living on the doorstep of the Great Barrier Reef (GBR) have been making changes to the way they farm to stop soil, pesticides, nutrients and excess water from their farm impacting on Reef water quality.

Growcom’s Hort360 program has brought the industry together to record these practice changes. Hort360 shows how individual farms are attaining best management practice and what they need to do to exceed industry standards.

The Attard family near Burnett Heads has installed technology to address runoff on their property. Not only is this technology saving the Attard's water, but it is also a big financial saving.

“We brought two probes and a weather station just so we could keep a better eye on water usage. It will alert me if I’ve underwatered, but I just look at it daily and run off the graph,” Jason Attard said.

Austchilli Group in Bundaberg takes Reef protection so seriously it has invested in specialised machinery to sow 12 different plants at once instead of leaving the Earth bare between commercial crop rotations. Ground cover plants stop topsoil runoff and improve the soil health.

“The soil is like your skin. If your skin is damaged, you get infected and it’s no good. It’s the same with soil. So the main thing with our soil health program is to maintain soil health by keeping the skin on it and the skin is the crops,” David De Paoli said.

John Steemson from Littabella Pines has a number of sampling and testing sights on his property evaluating farming practices for their viability and environmental outcomes.

“Any practice change needs to be a joint benefit for the farmer and the environment. Hort360 is a valuable tool in benchmarking and recording where we are now, and where would like to be,” Mr. Steemson said.

In August this year, Growcom launched the Hort360 Reef Certification program, a key component of the Hort360 Great Barrier Reef (Hort360 GBR) best management practice program, supported by the Queensland Government.

Through voluntary update of Hort360 Reef Certification, industry can demonstrate to the Government it is meeting best practice standards, potentially avoiding the need for regulated minimum standards in horticulture under the Queensland Government’s Reef Regulations.

Hort360 Manager, Scott Wallace said the intent to establishing a Hort360 Reef Certification was not to add to but align and leverage current systems used by horticulture businesses which specifically provide a water quality outcome.

“It is recognised that the majority of horticulture businesses operate within a food safety quality assurance system, and that some horticulture businesses also have an environmental certification. These independently audited systems are widely recognised across the horticulture industry supply chain,” Mr. Wallace said.

“Whilst these systems satisfy a specific purpose, they are far broader than what is required to achieve Hort360 Reef Certification.

“The Hort360 Reef Certification framework specifically focusses on environmental stewardship and industry best practice standards in reef catchments that will deliver improved water quality.”

Growcom has a team of dedicated Hort360 Facilitator who can help you achieve Reef Certification.

Source: Growcom

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