Reef Trust III Farmer Case Studies

The process of improving nutrient and herbicide practices is different for each individual farmer based on their circumstances.

Reading about the diverse ways farmers, who have different soil conditions, farm geography, and equipment make practice change is of interest to both farmers and the community.

Below are the stories of how these cane farmers are overcoming challenges.

Heath Argent and a tractor.

Heath Argent

The Reef Trust 3 project assisted Heath Argent to construct a liquid fertiliser applicator which is used to apply trace elements as a combined brew. Read more

Sam Orr and Andrew Auld.

Sam Orr and Andrew Auld

Reef Trust 3 funding assisted Andrew Auld in the purchase of a harvest monitor plus setup and calibration, a new variable rate controller for a three row stool splitter, an annual subscription to the equipment dealer link and three StoolZippas. Read more.

Cane at Sarina.

Ian and Tanya Baillie


Ian and Tanya Baillie have owned their 85 ha cane farm located in Sarina for 11 years and are soon to purchase an adjacent additional 110 ha from a retiring family member. Tanya says, “To me a challenge is something to get through”. Read more

Cane farm.

Rod Barrett

Rod Barrett intends to move to a B class fertiliser programme by implementing a Biological Farming System based on biologically produced inputs to reduce use of synthetic fertilisers on the crop. Read more

Graeme Blackburn in cane field.

Graeme Blackburn

Graeme Blackburn is transitioning to controlled traffic farming systems over his farms which include permanent beds. The Reef Trust 3 Programme part-funded the project to purchase a three-row Hodge controlled traffic bed renovator. Read more

Joseph Borg.

Joseph Borg

Joseph Borg joined Reef Trust III to be part of the industry initiatives to improve water quality. He is pleased he has the opportunity to consider nutrition rates and make decisions accordingly rather than have regulations, imposed on his farming business. Read more

Cane at Wallingford.

James Bugeja

James Bugeja owns and operates a 112 ha cane farm in the Wallingford area approximately 25 km west of Mackay. James is a third generation farmer, spending 20 of his 43 years on his current farm. Through Reef Trust III, James has converted his farm to 1.8 m row spacing with controlled traffic via GPS control of the farm machinery – Read more

David Capello.

David Cappello

David Cappello built his own fertiliser ameliorant applicator to use on his land, which will also be used within the family group of farms. Read more.

Stephen Fordyce and tractor.

Stephen Fordyce

Stephen Fordyce retrofitted Stool Zippas to reduce losses from volatilisation and rainfall runoff effects. Stool Zippas were easily retro-fitted to an existing Hodge double disc opener fertiliser unit. Read more.

Cane at Michael and Ann Gentle's farm.

Michael and Ann Gentle.

With regard to herbicide practice, Michael and Ann Gentle aim to significantly reduce the use of residuals. They are tailoring A and B class management practices to suit their smaller farming operation. Read more

Michael Graffunder and spray unit.

Michael Graffunder

Michael Graffunder has purchased a new spray unit with very reliable calibration of spray output, it records spray applications and paddock information in electronic form. Read more.

Clarrie Mathiason and machinery.

Clarrie Mathiason


Clarrie Mathiason had arranged for modifications to his existing fertiliser applicator including the double disc openers and liquid fertiliser system. The Reef Trust 3 programme was able to financially assist Clarrie with these modifications to improve nutrition application and lower potential loss. Read more

Bruce Neilsen.

Bruce Neilsen

Bruce and Dean Neilsen purchased a custom-built high clearance sprayer which allows them increased use of knockdown herbicides and reduced reliance on residuals. Read more.

Lindsay Neilsen.

Lindsay Neilsen

Lindsay Neilsen has implemented Easy Steps plus block yield potential. He wants to do the right thing for the environment and looks to adoption of practices which suit the farming operation. Read more

Tractor owned by Sharon and Jim Pengelly.

Jim and Sharon Pengelly

Jim and Sharon Pengelly’s improved farming practice uses a variable rate controller which enables adjustment of the amount of chemical they apply according to the level of weed pressure encountered. Read more.

Cane at Dennis and Margaret Russell's farm.

Dennis and Margaret Russell

Dennis and Margaret Russell’s main aim is to minimise nutrient and herbicide inputs and they are therefore keen to adopt practices which reduce waste. Read more.

Mandy and Glen Schmidtke, cane farmers.

Glen & Mandy Schmidke


Glen & Mandy Schmidtke have sought a challenge late in their career, with a 10 year lease on a 110 ha cane farm in the Plane Creek catchment, south of Mackay. They have completed two years managing this farm and see the eight years ahead as an opportunity. Read more

Dylan Wedel.

Dylan Wedel

Dylan Wedel‘s project aims to improve the accuracy and precision of fertiliser application by converting an old two-row side-dresser into a three-row stool splitter, each row with a 26 inch coulter and double disc openers. Read more.

Lindsay and Ross Williams.

Lindsay and Ross Williams.

Ross Williams and his father Lindsay optimise the amount, placement, and use of nutrients on the farm in order to maximise sugar per hectare productivity and to minimise wastage of nutrients into the local waterways. Read more

Tractor at David Wilson's farm.

David Wilson

David Wilson, like many of the Proserpine growers, is aware he farms in an area very close to the pristine innter reef and high volume tourist destinations, and, as such, he must protect both his profitability and his social licence to operate. Read more

Cane at Neville Young's farm.

Neville Young

Economics is just one of the reasons Neville Young has chosen to adopt improved practices in fertiliser applications. He is addressing his environmental responsibility, looking to improving sugar content, maintaining productivity, and minimising off farm losses. Read more

RT3 is coordinated by Reef Catchments, with funding through the Australian Government Reef Trust Phase 3 Programme.