Sugar cane.
Sugar cane. Lee Constable

Report credits farmers for helping reef health

A WWF report to the United Nations will highlight Queensland canegrowers helping tackle one of the world's biggest threats to marine life.

The farmers on the Great Barrier Reef coastline are working with government, scientists and NGOs to show reducing farm run-off can boost productivity.

WWF said the crown of thorns starfish, which is one of the biggest threats to the reef, is fuelled by fertiliser run-off from farms.

The Living Planet Report credits innovative farming practices for reducing pesticide pollution by 15% and fertiliser pollution by 13% over the past five years.

The governments' latest Reef Plan Report Card, published since the Living Planet Report went to print, shows an even better result.

It found pesticide pollution was down by 28% and fertiliser pollution was down 16%.

Agricultural industry group CANEGROWERS chairman Paul Schembri said the reductions had a lot to do with the spirit of farmers and proactive government programs.

"Alongside the 100 cane growers involved in the Catalyst program are the thousands of growers who have signed up to the proactive Reef Rescue program, implementing millions of dollars of on-farm improvements which bring the latest technology and practices for nutrient, sediment and chemical management onto farms around Queensland," Mr Schembri said.

CANEGROWERS said more than 1500 sugarcane growers had received $42 million in grants under the program.

WWF Australia chief Dermot O'Gorman said other farmers should follow and get on board.

"Water running off farms flushes fertilisers, pesticides and soil into rivers and onto the reef, with dire consequences not only for corals, sea grasses and marine wildlife but also for almost 69,000 full-time jobs in tourism, fishing and other industries that depend on a healthy reef," he said.

"Australian governments are currently consulting on the draft Reef 2050 Plan which aims to set out the actions and investments needed to secure the Great Barrier Reef's future."

Overall Australia scores poorly in the report, which measures changes to the world's biodiversity and habitats over the past 40 years and ranks the ecological footprint of 152 countries.

Australia ranks number 13 for the ecological footprint per capita.


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