WITH the health of the Great Barrier Reef of increasing concern and focus on a global stage, a growing number of Queensland horticulture producers are taking measures to reduce farming's impact on the heritage listed wonder.
Recently, pineapple, custard apple, lychee, mango, and avocado growers joined macadamia and sweetpotato producers in the Fitzroy region in becoming Reef Certified, meaning their farming practices have been third-party audited and approved as low impact on the reef.
Most are achieving the "tick of approval" through Growcom's best management practice program, Hort360.
Hort360 provides an avenue for fresh produce growers in the Great Barrier Reef (GBR) catchments to participate in a third-party audit to gain Reef Certification.
This is funded through the Queensland Government's Queensland Reef Water Quality Program.
Yeppoon farming families, the Browns and brothers-in-law John Cranny and Ben Clifton, recently came on board becoming the first pineapple and custard apple growers in the Fitzroy region to be Reef Certified.
Valley Syndicate pineapple grower John Cranny had been hesitant initially but said he found the Reef Certification third-party audit to be straightforward, and an opportunity to discuss practices used within the pineapple industry to reduce losses of sediment.
"It was worthwhile and I hope that other growers get on board. We should all be doing it," Mr Cranny said.
Joint owner and operator of family-owned Keppel Orchards, Ken Brown, grows mangoes, avocados and custard apples and expressed similar sentiment.
Since being involved in Growcom's Hort360 GBR project they've made significant changes to their pest management practices with excellent results.
Changes to their monitoring and record keeping system have resulted in substantial modification of their spray program, and a 10-fold yield increase in custard apples alone.
Keppel Orchards is the first custard apple orchard in the GBR catchment to become Reef Certified.
Mr Brown came across the Hort360 program and tools to improve pest management practices when he attended a workshop coordinated by Growcom, in early 2021.
As a result, Mr Brown invested in ag-tech sensor technology to assist in monitoring pest impacts, participated in peer-to-peer on-farm meetings with neighbours to improve scouting practices, and subsequently worked through the Hort360 module and third-party audit to become Reef Certified.
Another first Reef Certified certificate holders in the GBR catchment are lychee producers, Paul and Krystal Caton, at South Yaamba (west of Rockhampton).
With backgrounds in both the beef and cropping industries, the Catons understood the importance of participating in best management practice programs like Hort360.
The Catons produce six varieties of lychees for both domestic and international markets.
For them, capturing their management practices and demonstrating sustainable land management practices through Reef Certification is a no brainer.
"We are proud to promote stewardship for the Reef in our marketing of lychees grown here," Mrs Caton said.
"At Lush Lychees we focus on our soil health practices and use of beneficial insects to grow the best lychees we can while minimising impacts on the environment.
"We're also focussing on using irrigation as efficiently as we can to minimise any run-off or leaching of nutrients; these practices are win-wins."
Sunnyvale Mango growers, the Pershouses, were easily able to demonstrate Reef Certification practices at their third-generation orchard in Benaraby, on the foothills of Awoonga Dam along the Boyne River.
THE certification is starting to have supply chain impacts with consumers now able to support farms working towards reef water quality improvements.
Reef Certified growers are supplied with a trademarked logo kit for use in marketing their produce.
Growers are using the Reef Certification logo on their websites and cardboard cartons which are sent to market.
Consumers are encouraged to purchase Reef Certified fruit, vegetables and nuts where possible, to support producers in the GBR who are contributing to Reef water quality improvements.
The program is free to all commercial horticulture growers and completely voluntary.fBen
The certification pathway involves benchmarking farm management practices, working through the certification requirements with a facilitator, and an independent third-party audit.
The audit is only required to be undertaken every three years and the cost is currently funded through the program.
Commercial horticulture growers interested in receiving more information on Reef Certification are encouraged to contact Growcom.
The module can be undertaken independently online, remotely online, over the phone, or in consultation with a Hort360 GBR Officer.
For more information, contact one of Growcom's Hort360 Officers:
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