Cape York producers share costs of improved practices

By Isha Segboer, Cape York Sustainable Futures

Much of the horticulture on Cape York Peninsula is situated within the Lakeland Downs district, an area of fertile soils which overlie a large basalt outcrop. Farmers in this area are eager to embrace sustainable farming practices, including those which are beneficial for water quality, and have been implementing many of these improvements of their own accord.

One of the large pieces of machinery funded through the last round of Reef Rescue was a spreader. The spreader, which helps farmers distribute soil conditioners thereby increasing organic matter and nutrient holding capacities, has been used across a number of properties in the area, including the one pictured.  Good relations within the region have enabled growers to share in the co-investment for large pieces of machinery, substantially reducing their costs. Expressions of interest have been received for two more cross-farm projects during the 2009-10 round of funding, and growers are happy to share ideas and information about their practices.

The owner of Swiss Farms, Peter Inderbitzen, has been producing in the region for over 25 years. He has noticed improvements in water quality since introducing minimal and no-till practices to his farm.

“You used to see large clouds of dust like mini tornadoes during the drier months,” Peter said.

“These days, we only see that occurring on properties where people aren’t reducing their tillage. In the past, creeks would flow red with sediment during large downpours, and now you can see the improvement with much clearer water. Our controlled traffic practices have also greatly reduced the amount of runoff.”