Award Winning Banana Farmers An Example of Best Practice
Steve and Richelle grow bananas at Mission Beach – on one of the closest banana farms to the Great Barrier Reef. Ten years after the banana industry brought in environmental management practice guidelines, their business is a great example of what’s been achieved.
Environmental stewardship and banana farming near the Great Barrier Reef.
Since Steve Lizzio and Richelle Miles took over a banana farm nestled between rainforest and urban development and situated just over the rise from the ocean, they’ve worked hard to achieve a dream.
Heavy water flows through their farm during monsoonal rain, rising costs of production, new biosecurity risks and the changing land uses around them have all thrown up challenges. They’ve also led to an even greater respect for the land they cultivate – and a ‘Future Farming Award’ from the Australian Banana Growers Council.
The pair won the award for their work to reduce sediment, nutrient and pesticide runoff. Improvements have included a spoon drain running through the middle of the property, sediment ponds and a focus on soil health which has enabled them to reduce their fertiliser and chemical use. They’ve also increased their use of organic matter, grassed the rows between banana plants, and brought in a side-throw slasher to mulch the plantation.
The 400m-long grassed spoon drain, half-funded through a grant from the Queensland Government, has significantly reduced the threat of erosion in a major high-flow channel on their farm.
“We had severe washouts in the wet season and in recent years, urban development has intensified the water flow through the farm,’’ Steve says. “With improved farming practices, we’ve been able to manage this more effectively. The grassed spoon drain and settling ponds have helped to trap sediment. The ponds also act as a farm water-source.
“It’s another example of eco-friendly practices also being agriculture-friendly.”
The Australian Banana Growers Council CEO Leanne Erakovic says practices have improved over thousands of hectares since the Banana Best Management Practice Guideline was developed.
With 90 per cent of Australia’s bananas grown in the Wet Tropics and with many farms in ecologically significant areas, she sees the guidelines as an important step in minimising impact on water quality and the Great Barrier Reef.
The guideline includes a voluntary checklist for growers to review their practices, plan and prioritise farm management improvements. It covers the management of soil, water, nutrients, pesticides, waste and energy.
The guideline was a joint initiative led by the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries and co-funded by the Queensland Government and Hort Innovation. The Banana BMP Program is funded through the Queensland Government’s Reef Water Quality Program via the Office of the Great Barrier Reef, and proudly delivered by the Australian Banana Growers Council in partnership with growers.