Building Resilience to Future Drought
Drought has significant impact on the wellbeing of people and communities across Tropical North Queensland.
Drought affects all industries but particularly Tropical North Queensland agriculture industries including beef, sugar, vegetable, dairy, citrus and tropical fruit.
The below resource tool provides access to valuable information for hobby farms, helping locals build drought resilience and safeguard against common agricultural challenges.
This project received funding from the Australian Government’s Future Drought Fund.
Pioneer Catchment & Landcare Group Inc. (PCL) - PCL is a not-for-profit organisation that works closely with the community, government and industry stakeholders to deliver and advocate for protecting and restoring our natural environment. They can assist with: pest management and chemical use, native revegetation, waterway management and sustainable agriculture.
Sarina Landcare Catchment Management Association Inc. (SLCMA) - SLCMA is a community-based not-for-profit organisation that works with the community to help protect the natural environment within the Sarina Catchment.
Whitsunday Catchment Landcare Inc. (WCL) - WCL is a community organisation comprised of various stakeholders including agriculture, community and business as well as individual community members
Junior Landcare - Junior Landcare connects young Australians with Landcare, one of the country’s largest volunteer movements. There are thousands of people and countless communities working together towards sustainable land use and undertaking on-ground action to protect, enhance or restore an area on behalf of the community.
The region’s climate is humid and tropical with hot wet summers and cool dry winters. January is the hottest month (mean 30°C) and July is the coldest month (mean 17°C) for the coastal city of Mackay. Most (around 70 percent) of the region’s rainfall occurs between the months of December and March. The Mackay “wet season” or “cyclone season”, officially runs from November to May.
The following websites are useful for monitoring and planning for future weather events.
Your location. Your commodity. Your climate. Providing Australian farmers with tailored insights into their changing climate.
Saving Water Resources
Mackay is classified as the wet tropics, which means our weather patterns are characterised into two seasons: the monsoonal wet season (from around December to April), with high temperatures and high rainfall, and the dry season (May to November) with mild temperatures and lower rainfall. This means we get a lot of rain but in short timeframes, and the majority is lost through run-off into stormwater drains and rivers. Being able to capture or use the large amounts of water in these downpour events can save you money and obtain greater produce/pastures.
Passive Watering – irrigation of landscapes without the use of energy (e.g. no pumps). This typically involves using gravity to direct rainfall runoff from adjacent surfaces onto vegetation. This can involve converting frequently flooded sections of your property into permanent watering points, as a future Water recycle pits - A recycle pit is a structure designed to capture irrigation run-off (known as tailwater) for re-use in the production area. Recycle pits ensure tailwater, and any associated sediments, nutrients and pesticides, are re-used on the farm and do not enter natural waterways and wetlands. Recycle pits do not treat the water.
Water efficient garden – planting native plants suited to the local microclimate is the best way to reduce water usage in the garden. Mulching around plants saves water by reducing evaporation and run-off, limits weed growth and can improve soil conditions by adding nutrients. Mulching also protects plant roots from high temperatures and soil from erosion.
Rainwater tanks – Information about installing and using rainwater tanks.
Irrigation - An irrigation system is a network of permanent piping connected to emitters designed and installed to water a specific landscape area. Emitters are devices fitted on a pipe which is operated under pressure to discharge water in a spray, mist or drip form. An efficient irrigation system minimises the water output capacity and applies an appropriate amount of water for plants/grasses.
AgriTech Solutions provides agronomic advice to farming enterprises and the irrigation industry, with a particular focus on sugarcane and horticulture. AgriTech Solutions provides independent and informed advice that is tailored to enhance the profitability and sustainability of agricultural production systems and individual enterprises.
Tariff review highlights opportunities to save, case study.
IrrigWeb is a sugarcane irrigation scheduling tool for the sugar industry. The primary aim of IrrigWeb is to provide irrigators with current and local advice on sugarcane crop water use and development. The tool combines crop water use estimates with user-defined irrigation system constraints and crop cycle inputs to schedule future irrigation events. Developed by SQR Software, IrrigWeb uses a sugarcane crop model, CANEGRO, to calculate sugarcane crop water use and yield outputs.
IrrigWeb: An Irrigation Scheduling Tool case study - water source.
Fire Management Resources
Fire management guidelines give land managers 'nuts and bolts' information and tools necessary to confidently identify fire management issues and implement planned burns, right down to ignition, so landowners can be confident in achieving a safe and successful planned burn.
The guidelines are based on Queensland’s thirteen Bioregions and address Fire Vegetation Groups (groups of related ecosystems that share common fire management requirements).
Reef Catchments has developed a range of fire management tools in consultation with volunteer rural fire brigades, fire wardens, fire scientists and key landholders to support their fire management activities. This support includes provision of fire management guidelines, brigade and property level mapping including fire history mapping, and extending our fire management expertise.
Soil Health Resources
Soil is the most important natural asset in any farming or grazing enterprise. For a farm business to be profitable in the long term the soil asset needs to be kept in good condition. That way it can cycle nutrients and water effectively and provide a good structure for plant roots and air to flow through. A soil in good condition also maintains balanced chemical conditions for optimal plant growth and can help suppress plant diseases.
The Terrain Tropical Soils guidebook gives farmers the dirt on everything from microbes to soil management. Soil specialists, farmers and natural resource management organisations worked together to develop the handbook, which was written by well-known agroecologist David Hardwick and includes practical stories from a wide range of farmers in the Wet and Dry Tropic regions of North Queensland.
Central Queensland Soil Health Systems (CQSHS) resources for healthy soils.
Queensland Government soil management resources
Annual healthy soils symposium videos are available on Reef Catchments YouTube channel.
The Greater Whitsunday Agtech Hub supports producers and businesses to better understand agtech solutions and connect them with service providers and investors. Agtech is a broad term for innovative technologies and methods being used in agriculture to improve crop yields, reduce costs, and reduce waste in the production of food. The Greater Whitsunday Agtech Hub supports producers and businesses to better understand agtech solutions and connect them with service providers and investors.
The Australian Government Farm Relief Tool connects farmers with Australian Government financial assistance and community support to help prepare for, and recover from drought, natural disaster or biosecurity events
Cane Farming Resources
In the Mackay Whitsunday region there are a range of support options available to help cane growers make practice improvements and try new things. Managing cane in a sustainable manner while increasing productivity and profits is beneficial for farmers and the environment.
CANERISE - Access a range of tools and resources to help you make sustainable practice changes on your land. The website features case studies, funding opportunities and educational tools/videos. Topics include: farm economics and record keeping, nutrient management, pests, weeds and diseases, irrigation and soil management & break crops.
The ABCD framework is designed to highlight and facilitate communication about the different levels or standards of management practice (as opposed to resource condition) within the cane industry for different water quality parameters (i.e. sediment, nutrients and chemicals). The document continues to support the identification and validation of cane management practices that can improve both end of catchment water quality and marine ecosystem health as identified in the Water Quality Improvement Plan (WQIP).
MAPS is the main provider of sugarcane advice and extension for Mackay Sugar farmers. They work on most issues including: pests, diseases, weeds, varieties, nutrition, irrigation and harvesting. Their mission is to enhance the profitability and sustainability of the sugar industry through innovative productivity programs and plant protection services.
Plane Creek Productivity Services will support and enhance sugar industry viability and sustainability for its members while enhancing its role as the lead agency in the Plane Creek Region with a strong industry focus.
Sugar Services Proserpine - enhancing the productivity of the Proserpine region sugar industry by providing advice and support to sugarcane growers to manage and control invasive weeds, pests and diseases and to recognise their impacts on farm productivity.
Reef Catchments resources for the sugarcane industry to improve nutrient management, pesticide management, and irrigation practices on farm while maintaining or improving productivity and profitability.
Farmacist provide site specific assistance for farming businesses using the latest science, technology and digital data layers. Farmacist is able to assist with a range of precision agriculture needs from mapping to sampling and prescription mapping for improved growing conditions.
Sugar Research Australia's eLibrary provides online full-text access to a growing collection of research reports and electronic publications authored by SRA researchers and staff or resulting from research funded by SRA. Most documents in the eLibrary are freely available to any reader.
Fertiliser application - Sugar Research Australia’s tools have been developed to make on-farm nutrient management easier. The six easy steps toolbox is a repository of all of the tools that support or add value to the six easy steps nutrient management program.
There are a range of techniques and tools for managing grazing pastures to support stocking levels even during times of hardship like droughts and climate change. Rotating stock and prioritising pasture paddocks in a sustainable manner can ensure healthy soil, land, stock and profits. A sustainable grazing system can handle grazing levels over time while conserving the natural environment. Improved management of pastures leads to improved animal nutrition and increased profits/productivity.
Pastures: Mackay/ Whitsunday region - A guide for developing productive and sustainable pasture-fed grazing systems provides information and knowledge on sown and native pasture systems.
The Mackay Whitsunday Region Sustainable Grazing Guide provides relevant information and tools to assist graziers in achieving sustainable management of their land, whilst maintaining or enhancing farm efficiency and productivity.
The ABCD framework for the reef catchments of Mackay Whitsunday Isaac identifies standards of grazing management (as opposed to resource condition) within the grazing industry.
QLD Government grazing support programs and tools that help graziers adopt improved farming practices.
QLD Government grazing support programs and toolsn can assist with optimising beef production without jeopardising land conditions. The use of forage budgeting can help to provide information on stocking rates that maximise production in a sustainable way. Photo standards are a useful tool in establishing rapid ‘by-eye’ assessment of pasture yield. Such assessment can be used on its own or in combination with ground truthing techniques such as physical yield determination. These yield photos have been developed to assist in yield determination for the purpose of forage budgeting specific to sown pastures within the Mackay Whitsunday region.
Reef Catchments grazing case studies and resources to assist graziers in the implementation of grazing practices that benefit both the landscape and improves the long-term viability of the grazier’s farm as a more efficient agricultural operation.
Horse Management Resources
At Equiculture, learn how to manage horses, pasture and land to make decisions that will improve the life of your horse/s and you.
The Plants Poisonous to Horses book is designed as a guide for horse owners to help them prevent plant poisoning in their horses. It clearly outlines the factors that influence the risk of plant poisoning and the ways to reduce this risk. The types of toxins that can be found in plants are discussed, along with the signs of poisoning that may be seen in horses that have ingested toxic plant material. A description of each plant is provided, including structure, growth habit and identifying features. Management notes suggest ways of dealing with poisonous plants on properties.
Fencing Selection Resources
Effective fencing can assist with stock management as well as conservation of sensitive areas. When deciding the design and placement of a new fence line, one main question you may pose could be: ‘What type of fence should I install?’
Rural fencing requirements vary greatly depending on the property’s unique characteristics, including but not limited to - location, livestock, purpose, cost and capacity. To assist in deciding which best fencing combination suits your operation use Reef Catchments guide.
Wildlife friendly fencing
Wildlife cannot always climb fencing to migrate across the landscape or they can become entangled on barbed wire fencing so here are some tips to ensure your fencing on your property reduces the risk of harming local wildlife.
- Use plain wire or Murray barbless twist wire for the top two strands of the fence or electric fence.
- Keep a 50 cm gap between ground level and the first rail or strand.
- Keep 30 cm gaps between the rails or remaining strands.
- Use box wire mesh (with squares of no less than 15 cm).
- Leave a 30-50 cm gap between the ground level and fence bottom, and ensure the fence is not more than 1.2 metres high. A capping rail along the top also allows for easy movement.
- If you have to use barbed wire fencing, attach reflective materials such as metal tags or used CDs along the top wire, or wrap the top strand with used polypipe or similar material.
- Consider planting vegetation into, or adjacent, to your fence.
- For exclusion fencing, prop a wooden pole/beam against either side of the fencing, every few metres to allow climbing animals a way to safely pass over the fence.
Land for Wildlife - Wildlife Friendly Fencing and Netting brochure
Wires - Wildlife friendly fencing page
Murray barbless safe-twist wire article
Regenerative Agriculture Resources
Regenerative Agriculture describes farming and grazing practices that, among other benefits, reverse climate change by rebuilding soil organic matter and restoring degraded soil biodiversity – resulting in both carbon drawdown and improving the water cycle. It is dynamic and holistic, incorporating permaculture and organic farming practices, including conservation tillage, cover crops, crop rotation, composting, mobile animal shelters and pasture cropping, to increase food production, farmers’ income and especially, topsoil.
RCS is Australia’s leading private provider of education, training, and advisory services in regenerative agriculture. Enabling producers to grow productive and profitable agricultural businesses while improving the health of the land. Access proven methods and practical tools that build upon your existing skills.
Grazing for Profit and Farming - 6.5 day programs offer a holistic and practical approach to land management. From foundational techniques like grass budgeting and grazing charts to advanced strategies that optimise soil health and rainfall utilisation.
Climate risk information for rural Queensland - Long paddock.
MLA delivers a range of workshops, tools and other resources for red meat producers to equip them with the latest best-practice knowledge gathered from research that can be applied to improve their businesses. Find out about workshops, programs and resources relevant to your livestock business.
FutureBeef is an ally for the north Australian beef industry, sharing the latest practical tools, scientific insights, and relevant, timely advice. This helps producers, pastoralists, graziers, livestock owners and landholders to make the most of good and bad times.
Farmers for climate action, information on climate-smart agriculture or putting some of the practices in place on your farm. Check out this Climate-Smart Agriculture Toolkit.
QLD government land and vegetation mapping to assist with property management. The regulated vegetation management maps can be requested by specifying coordinates or lot on plan. All other maps types require a lot on plan. The map or report will be emailed as a PDF, free of charge. Request a vegetation map or property report
Land Hub provides aerial surveying, data mapping and nutrient management. They offer a range of subscription-based models depending on preferences and farm requirements, such as: nutrient management plans, annual agronomist visits, secure farm data and grower app.
Soil Land Food delivers a range of courses and workshops for landholders and farmers across Australia and online. Topics cover soils, rural landscape management, regenerative and organic agriculture, composting and biofertilisers. They also deliver workshops on erosion and grazing. With experience in agronomy, grazing management and whole farm planning we can tailor a workshop to suit your group's needs.
QLD Government Agriculture initiatives, programs and campaigns providing practical solutions and support that generate measurable ecological and profitable outcomes for farmers. The Grazing Naturally System has been developed by Dick Richardson to be an ecological principle based solution.
Natures Equity, offering a farm management system that is highly adaptable for you to take onboard and implement in a way that suits your style, location and operation.
Information booklet around grazing in Mackay, Whitsunday and Isaac. Information on books, videos, mobile apps to assist with farm plans.
Reef Catchments reef trust VII outcomes: https://reefcatchments.com.au/projects/reef-trust-vii-oconnell-and-proserpine-basins-water-quality-project/
Environmental weeds are plants that do not naturally occur in an area and can invade areas of natural habitat. Originating from other countries, regions or as garden escapees, weeds outcompete native plants, are not always palatable or can be poisonous. Over 170 species of environmental weeds occur in Mackay, including Weeds of National Significance (WONS) like Hyemenachene, madeira vine and Cat’s claw.
There are a range of methods for controlling weeds including mechanical removal and/or herbicide use, which depend on the type of weed you are trying to replace. Plants with shallow roots or in soft soil are better to remove manually while plants with large tap roots or that grow from broken segments are better with other methods of control or mechanical removal more successful when soil soil is wet from rainfall .
Always read and follow the herbicide label use and safety instructions on the pack (SDS) and only use approved herbicides registered for use on that particular weed and location. Approved herbicides and control methods can be found by searching online for ‘common name of the weed, DAFF fact sheet’. Each weed has online profiles that provide more information on identification, the ecology and control methods for managing the specific weed.
A useful book on weed identification is available at Reef Catchments offices and any of the region’s Landcare groups (Whitsunday, Pionner and SCLMA).
Reef Catchments' Are your Plants Going Bush? - Plants that are likely to become garden escapees and should be avoided or removed from your garden, plus suggestions of some native replacements.
NQ Dry Tropics' Invasive Plants Guide
Queensland Governments Control methods to manage and prevent the spread of weeds on your property.
Whitsunday Catchment Landcare Managing Weeds in Pastures information brochure.
Grow Me Instead - visual representation of various weed control methods
Mackay Regional Council's Plants of the Region, including Mackay's priority weeds
Invasive animals are highly detrimental to native fauna and flora. They can have direct impacts through predation or indirect impacts such as competing and exhausting similar food sources. Pests travel across the landscape unrestricted by property boundaries or fences, therefore pest control is most effective when done in a collaborative approach with neighbouring properties.
Pest animals include:
- Feral cats
- Wild dogs
- Feral Pigs
- Common Myrna
Depending on your method of pest control, certain licences or permits will be required prior to implementing your chosen control method.
Pest Animals Resources
PestSmart provides best practice information on how to plan, manage and improve pest animal control programs on your property.
QLD Government pest management plan resources
Record pest animal activity in your local area to protect farms, biodiversity and communities
Revegetating Habitat Resources
Providing and retaining habitat for native wildlife can play a major role in sustainable land management and can contribute to providing habitat links between isolated pockets of vegetation or nature reserves. Native plants generally require less water than exotic species, are low maintenance and can help with erosion and salinity management, and provide shade and shelter for livestock.
The Mackay Natural Environment Centre (MNEC) nursery specialises in local Central Queensland provenance plants for rehabilitation and revegetation. If you have a revegetation project, contact the nursery team.
Plants grown at the Mackay Natural Environment Centre (MNEC) including plant height and individual species fact sheets.
Mackay Regional council list of plant species in the region
Mackay Regional Council’s Free Native Plant Program allows ratepayers to obtain several free native plants every year. Residents can collect their plants from the Mackay Natural Environment Centre at 6 Swayne Street, North Mackay on Free Native Plant Program open days. Nursery open days can be found here.
|PROPERTY TYPE / GROUP||ALLOCATION|
|Residential Property||4 plants per property|
|Gardens for Wildlife||10 plants per property|
|Land for Wildlife Property||20 plants per property|
Pioneer Catchment Landcare can help with the identification and revegetation of native plants on your property. For identification, simply send them a clear photo of the leaves, flowers, seeds, and the plant as a whole. Take note of any distinguishing features such as thorny stems, hairy leaves, etc.
For revegetation, they can provide guidance on what to plant based on plant requirements and suitability in the landscape, plus when and how it should be planted. They also provide general gardening advice to achieve certain goals such as specific-coloured flowers or attracting birds, bees, butterflies, or koalas? An annual membership also entitles you to free native plants every year.
Sarina Landcare Management group offer a free property visit for plant identification, revegetation, and land management planning. An annual membership also entitles you to 10 native plants a year.
Whitsunday catchments landcare runs a native plant nursery where our volunteers & staff produce local native plants for use in revegetation projects as well as being available for sale to the general public. WCL offers a range of services on a fee for service basis. Services include: Sustainable Land Management advice, including Land Management Plans; Environmental Weed Control & Native plant supply.
Whitsunday Plants Suitable for Gardens brochure.
Attracting Native Wildlife
Attracting Native Wildlife Resources
Providing resources and habitat for local native species benefits the wildlife and your garden. Native wildlife assist with pollination, provide natural means of pest control and soil aeration, benefiting your land and plants.
Give native bees a home in your garden with these easy DIY bee hotels.
Information on Australian native bees
Frog hotels are a great way to encourage more frogs to visit your garden while giving them a safe space to live in. What’s more, building a frog hotel is easy and fun and you’ll be rewarded with a croaky chorus of little guests in no time!
Providing artificial hollows and nest boxes are great easy to provide habitat for arboreal mammals and bird species. Hollows only form in trees over 100 years old, so to assist with habitat options, provide or make alternatives.
Fauna Rescue Whitsundays Buddies in the backyard information page.
Central QLD coast Landcare network database on local wildlife in the region.
Central QLD coast Landcare network database on native plants and classified weeds in the region.
QLD government threats to wildlife
Land for Wildlife
Land for Wildlife
Land for Wildlife is a free voluntary program which aims to encourage and assist private landholders to provide habitat for wildlife on their property. Whether you manage a large farm or small bush block, generally over 1 hectare in size, properties in the program can be devoted to habitat protection or may be managed for other purposes, such as farming and agriculture, whilst incorporating nature conservation.
Land for Wildlife also offers free workshops, field days, regular newsletters and opportunities to meet other likeminded landholders. A Land for Wildlife sign is provided free of charge to registered landholders to acknowledge their efforts in wildlife conservation.
A “working towards” registration category is available for landholders who do not qualify for full registration at the first property visit. Advice will be given to help you work towards full registration in the future. Neighboring properties may join together and apply for group registration.