Scientists to work with farmers to improve regional water quality

Scientists utilising advanced technologies will work with grazing farmers in Western Australia over the next four years to reduce nutrient loss off farms and improve water quality in local waterways and estuaries.

Technologies such as near-infrared and x-ray fluorescence will be used in conjunction with traditional techniques to measure productivity and nutrient status in soils and pastures, providing more in-depth information than previously available.

More than $5.5 million has been provided by the state and federal governments for Smart Farming Fertiliser trials to improve the health of waterways and estuaries by reducing fertiliser run-off, which in turn will help increase farm productivity and profitability.

“From tourism ventures to commercial fishermen, improving water quality in our rivers is important to a variety of industries that provide local jobs,” said state water minister Dave Kelly.

“Phosphorus is important in farming but there is widespread concern that repeated fertiliser applications are causing phosphorus ‘leakage’ to the environment which can cause algal blooms in our waterways.

“These farm trials will see local farmers work with experts from government, universities and industry, to help improve water quality and save money through efficient use of fertiliser.”

The project will involve at least 36 fertiliser trials, using seven different treatments on local farms from the Peel-Harvey catchment to Oyster Harbour in Albany. In the last month, 19 trials have been established with initial measurements starting next week.

Scientists from the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development, Department of Water and Environmental Regulation and CSBP; Summit Fertilizers, Western Dairy, Landmark, Meat and Livestock Australia, independent agronomists and Murdoch University and farmer representatives are on a technical reference group that has developed the design of the trials.

The project is funded with $3.26 million from the State Government’s Regional Estuaries Initiative, Department of Water and Environmental Regulation and Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development; and $2.35 million through the Australian Government’s National Landcare Program with in-kind support from fertiliser, dairy and beef industry groups.