Combating climate challenges the focus at Mackay field day

Aug 22, 2018 | ,
Robert Quirk, Simon Mattsson, and Craig Doyle.
From left, Robert Quirk, Simon Mattsson, Craig Doyle

Around 65 local farmers turned out to learn about the latest in innovative climate smart farming practices at a field day at Marian. The event “Climate, Cane and Carbon” was co-hosted by Reef Catchments and Farmers for Climate Action.

Local cane grower and Nuffield Scholar Simon Mattsson shared his family farm with his industry peers and discussed multi species cropping, improving organic carbon levels in their soil and the latest science and research on climate and cane farming in the Mackay region.

Keynote speaker and deputy chair of the Australian Cane Farmers Association, Robert Quirk, spoke about the need for the community to understand the risk of inaction on climate change and the opportunities for cane farmers to adapt and mitigate climate damage and improve productivity at the same time. He said: “Growing cane with a focus on carbon retention is one of the best ways to get carbon out of the air and into the soil and offers a range of benefits for  producers including moisture retention, higher production and less input costs.”

Growers meet in Simon Mattsson's shed.

CEO of Mackay Regional Council, Craig Doyle, talked through council’s plans to transition to renewable energy and the economic benefits of making the switch.

Mr Doyle said: “A few years ago the council invested $2m in distributed solar energy and this year is the third year of the project. Ratepayers will save around $300,000 on council energy bills and starting next year saving will be around half a million dollars per year over the life the project.”

Event organisers, Farmers for Climate Action, Reef Catchments, Mackay Regional Council, Mackay Conservation Group and the farmer-led Central Queensland Soil Health System Group, joined forces to address climate challenges, improving soil health and carbon capture and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Farmers for Climate Action Queensland Co-ordinator Michael Kane said it was terrific to see the interest in climate smart farming practices, as well as what rural and regional towns can do to ensure the future sustainability of their regions.

“There was so much interest in the event we had to stop accepting RSVPs. Farmers in the Mackay region are hungry for information about improving soils, carbon sequestration and climate change,” Mr Kane said.

“Dangerous climate change poses great risks for agriculture in the Mackay region and farmers are very concerned about that, farmers are keen  to talk about mitigating climate risk and obviously they are also interested in the production benefits of carbon farming as well,” said Mr Kane. “It is a win for the environment and farmers.”

Richard Prior, a local grower and member of Central Queensland Soil Health Systems, attended the event. He said: “It was good to get off farm to hear new ideas and farming practices. I want to build soil carbon on my place as it is a good measure of soil health and I am keen to learn more about how to to that.”

Reef Catchments regional agriculture landcare facilitator, Juliane Kasiske said it was a very successful day and Reef Catchments are looking forward to holding similar events in the region in partnership with local growers and community groups.

“Assisting local cane growers to improve production methods and achieve environmental outcomes is always very rewarding,” said Ms Kasiske.