Banana Industry Focused on Innovation

Over the past 20 years, banana growers such as Peter Inderbitzin and his family in Far North Queensland, have reduced their fertiliser application rates by up to 60%.

Over the last decade several government funded projects have targeted a reduction in nutrient (fertiliser) and pesticide runoff - particularly in the Wet Tropics where our combination of short sharp rivers and high rainfall pose a greater risk for runoff.

The banana industry have achieved a large reduction in fertiliser rates mostly due to a better understanding of plant nutrient requirements, which has enabled growers to match fertiliser application more effectively to crop requirements. The net result is cost savings for growers and less excess nutrients leaching into waterways.

The Inderbitzin family from Lakeland are a prime example of banana growers who are willing to adapt, innovate and diversify their business.

They were one of the first families to move into the Lakeland area in 1985, taking advantage of its rich volcanic soil, large blocks and flat land. Since then their banana farming operation has gone from strength to strength.

Recently the family has received a water quality incentive grant as part of the Australian Government’s Reef Trust III program. The funding is being used to improve the precision of their fertigation system, which allows them to apply fertiliser more regularly in smaller amounts, which reduces the chance of nutrients being leached in a high rainfall event.

The Inderbitzin family have also diversified into recycling by opening of their own recycling facility, Shark Recyclers, at Biboohra on the Atherton Tablelands where they produce commercial compost for use in agriculture, industry and the general public.

The application of compost has been very beneficial to their farms, lifting the organic matter in the soils from 1.6% to 8%. This increases the water holding capacity of the soil allowing it to hold on to moisture, thereby reducing nutrient runoff. The use of compost has enabled them to reduce their use of chemical fertilisers by 60%, without affecting production or quality.

Innovation is an area receiving an increased focus by industry and government. The Australian Government’s Reef Trust III program has committed funding to support innovative ideas that go beyond current industry best practice when it comes to nutrient, pesticide and sediment management practices. This is an exciting and new opportunity for the banana industry.

If you have an innovative idea to improve on-farm nutrient and sediment management practices on banana farms or would like more information on what innovative practices the banana industry is exploring, call the Reef Extension Team on (07) 4015 2797.

The Reef Alliance Program is a partnership between agricultural industry, regional NRM bodies and facilitated by the Queensland Farmers’ Federation (QFF), with a common goal of securing the future health of the Great Barrier Reef. The Reef Alliance Program is funded by the Australian Government and delivered through the Reef Trust.

Thanks to Dale Bennett at the Australian Banana Grower's Council

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