Technology is reducing water pollution in the Great Barrier Reef

JASMINE DUX

Geoff Dickinson at IHC 2014. Photo: Kasun Ubayasiri

Geoff Dickinson at IHC 2014. Photo: Kasun Ubayasiri

Surveillance technology that can monitor farm runoff is the latest high-tech innovation being used to protect water quality on the Great Barrier Reef.

Queensland Department of Agriculture Fisheries and Forestry researcher Dr Geoff Dickinson told the International Horticultural Congress in Brisbane last week, that precision horticulture could hold the key to a healthy reef.

He said Queensland farmers were now using precision horticulture technologies such as global navigation satellite systems and soil mapping to reduce agricultural water pollution which has been linked to increased outbreaks of crown-of-thorns starfish.

The Queensland government Senior Horticulturist said agricultural pollution needed a solution which didn’t harm either farming or the marine environment.

“Agriculture is considered the main cause of Great Barrier Reef water pollution, but, agriculture is also worth about $14 billion to our economy every year,” Dr Dickinson said.

“So there really needs to be something done about it.”

Dr Dickinson said  interest in precision horticultural devices was on the rise and he believed these technologies would become commonly available in the future.

“There’s been a revolution in Queensland over the last five years in the adoption of global navigation satellite systems,” he said.

Dr Dickinson said Global navigation satellite systems were used for better crop management by locating traffic lanes and crop beds,

He explained how precision horticulture had long term benefits for farmers where limiting the movement of farm machinery traffic to designated areas reduced soil compaction, increasing water filtration and reducing water runoff.

Dr Dickinson said new practices will increase with grower experience, leaving farmers to benefit both economically and environmentally from updating horticulture practices.

“Precision horticulture practices will occur with increasing grower experience and confidence and innovative growers are already leading the way,” he said.

“Precision horticulture is improving farming, sustainability, that’s going to improve the water quality entering the Great Barrier Reef.”

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