How the Conway rainforest is playing a role in farming
AIMING to grow a better cane crop with less resources, one Proserpine farm manager is on a mission to implement more environmentally sustainable farming practices in the region.
Paul Rogers works on a Glen Isla farm where he has been using cover crops, fertiliser and a back-to-basics compost in a trial-and-error process to improve cane farming.
In a region where some of the land has been farmed for 100 years, Mr Rogers said regenerating the land could be a lengthy process.
"Ultimately we want to grow a better crop with less resources,” he said.
"This is an investment into a more environmentally sustainable farming system.
"We've also got to make up for a lot of time of less than desirable processes on this land.”
Bio fertiliser is a bit gory. It uses the bacteria from a cow's stomach to breakdown the components of fertiliser into a more plant-available form.
Mr Rogers said the fertiliser could dramatically decrease the amount of product needed per paddock.
"Instead of using a fertiliser of about 20kg a hectare, we can make it into a plant-available form, fairly cheaply and biologically and we can use 2kg a hectare instead,” he said.
"The plant can take this form up easily and so we are looking at less product use and less waste.”
On the same property, Mr Rogers is also drawing inspiration from the nearby Conway National Park rainforest in his development of a productivity-boosting compost.
Implementing regenerative agriculture as best he can, Mr Rogers said he'd been searching the planet for ways of adding more nature derived processes into farming.
"We're trying to replicate the fungal dominated system of the rainforest,” he said.
"You wouldn't dump a heap of chemicals or fertilisers on it yet, it has higher production than any agricultural system in the world.”
Looking across the Glen Isla farm, instead of being covered in cane or left bare, it is springing to life as nine different species of cover crops flourish.
These crops include sunflowers, radishes, legumes and grassy plants.
Cover crops can only be done once every four to six years due to the lifecycle of a cane plant.
"Basically, these plants are used to feed the soil,” Mr Rogers said.
"If you left the paddock bare in-between cane crops, there is a certain amount of nutrients left in the soil but that can get leached and leave the paddock.
"The cover crop attaches to the nutrients and bring them back to the top of the soil, or they are adding nutrients into the soil.
"They are the ultimate recyclers.”
While Mr Rogers continues to develop more environmentally sustainable practices, he said a lot of growers in the region were aware of areas of farming that needed improvements.
Accessibility plays a big role in the uptake of new practices by farmers.
Mr Rogers hopes to evolve his methods and the use of bio products into a clear procedure growers can integrate into their farming.