Supported by funding from the Australian Government's Reef Programme.
Ben Poggioli is a multicrop farmer of up to 250 ha of peanuts, corn, pumpkin, hay and sugar cane in the Barron region. Farming is in his blood; his mum, dad and brother are all on the farm, and he believes his three boys will come back after their studies.
The Poggiolis were able to access funding via the Australian Government’s Reef Programme, which has seen Ben at the forefront of implementing new methodologies in an attempt to minimise the application of pesticides to his productive area. Reef Programme grants delivered by Terrain and industry partners in the Wet Tropics, help farmers to improve land management practices and contribute to the improvement of the quality of water flowing in to the Great Barrier Reef lagoon.
Ben says it’s about getting back to basics, and getting back to how nature works. He places high importance on learning and knowledge sharing. “You have to want to learn, though”. He has observed a change in the industry and notes that there is more conversation about new technologies and improved practices.
“It’s an economical decision in that it means less man hours, less fuel burn, and less machinery needing to be owned to get the same results, and it’s a sustainability decision in that there are benefits in things like nutrient and soil management and soil retention.”
His drive for innovation and lowered inputs has seen an adoption of zonal or minimum tillage farming practices, via the purchase of non-power take off (PTO) equipment. Ben says they are doing the least amount of tillage to get the best results possible.
Ben noted after the heavy rain event in January this year, that there was zero erosion on sloping blocks that had been strip-tilled, whereas those with conventional tillage had experienced erosion.
A further project is the functional conversion of a hooded sprayer to a ‘Weed Wick’; an activity that supports weed management with less chemicals. It is being fine tuned to strike a balance between limited soil disturbance and reduced chemical input. “You have to keep moving forward and fine tuning things as you go,” say Ben. “It’s about taking advantage of the information and technologies that are available.”