INCITEC Pivot Fertilisers and two pineapple growers from the Glasshouse Mountains region of south-east Queensland have shared the honours in this year's Fertilizer Australia environmental awards.
The 2019 Platypus Award was taken out by Incitec Pivot Fertilisers for increasing efficiency, reducing waste and improving the environmental performance of its manufacturing and distribution sites around the country in the past two years.
The company's environmental improvement program has been so successful that it has created a step change in the way its sites operate and shown how to integrate better environmental practices into fertiliser operations as a model for the wider fertiliser industry.
Meanwhile, Glasshouse Mountains pineapple growers, Keith Morgan and Adam Pike, won the Fertilizer Australia Snapper Award for their eight-year search to come up with better ways to improve fertiliser use efficiency and reduce the risk of nutrient losses from their neighbouring farms into nearby Coochin Creek.
The growers have been collaborating with staff from the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries' Maroochy Research Facility, led by Stuart Irvine-Brown and Rachel Abel, to trial a number of different fertiliser strategies and the use of denitrification bioreactors to improve the quality of water exiting their farms into the environment.
Not only has their work helped provide robust data to improve off-farm nutrient losses, but the two growers have played a key role in promoting the new system and the bioreactors at field days and farm walks among pineapple growers and other producers.
The two awards were announced by Fertilizer Australia chairman, Jim Mole, at the 2019 Australian Fertilizer Industry conference on the Gold Coast earlier this month.
Congratulating this year's winners, Mr Mole said the awards began in 2004 to recognise individuals and companies involved in the fertiliser industry who were making the most significant improvements in environmental performance.
DAF development horticulturist, Rachel Abel, said the collaborative project had led to better ways of managing nutrients in pineapples while reducing nutrient losses from leaching and improving water quality in Coochin Creek, Pumicestone Passage and Moreton Bay.
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"Using fertilisers more effectively is a win-win for growers and the environment, ensuring that off-farm nutrient losses, particularly in sensitive areas, are minimised," she said.
"The project has led pineapple growers to move towards more targeted applications of foliar fertilisers that reflect crop requirements.
"This is a better system than relying strongly on pre-plant and side-dress fertilisers for early crop establishment in highly porous soils which can lead to sizable nutrient losses as a result of leaching."
Along with better nutrient budgeting, the project has found that installing denitrification bioreactors reduced the nitrate concentration in shallow groundwater by 60-100 per cent, depending on water flow and its nitrate content over time.
The research has shown that the bioreactors are easy to install, cost-effective, have little impact on existing farm layouts and management practices, and last for 10 years or more.
"Thanks to the success of these trials with Keith Morgan and Adam Pike, there's a growing network of producers across the state who are interested in installing bioreactors to improve off-farm water quality," Ms Abel said.
- Copy supplied by Incitec Pivot.