Meet Reef Rescue R&D researcher Neil Wiltshire



Horticulturist Neil Wiltshire worked for CSIRO in Brisbane for 13 years before heading to South Mission Beach in 2008 to carry out research on Eucalyptus and Teak forestry plantations for Elders Forestry. When Cyclone Yasi destroyed over 150 000 experimental trees Neil took a few months off before finding a new role with Agri-Science Queensland. Currently working on Reef Rescue R&D project RRRD049 Minimising Off - Farm Movement of Nitrogen, Neil is hopeful his study will lead to improvements in banana farm management practice.

What does your role with Agri-Science Qld involve?

As a horticulturist my role is to carry out research on slow - release fertilisers and investigate methods to minimise off - farm movement of nitrogen in the banana industry. Through researching new and improved methods of banana fertilisation, we hope to improve sustainability and water quality.

Do you get out in the field much?

75% of my work involves field work on trials at South Johnstone - the rest involves data entry and analysis.

What do you love about the region you work in?

Fishing and snorkelling on the Great Barrier Reef, feasting on tropical fruits and being held up by cassowaries crossing the road - sure beats waiting at traffic lights.

Tell me about the projects you're involved in?

The project, which began in July, last year, involves testing five different fertilisers and comparing the amounts of nitrate and ammonium that leach through the soil during a plant crop cycle. The aim is to find a fertiliser that supplies nitrogen to a developing crop of bananas while minimising nitrogen leaching losses.

Where do they fit into Reef Rescue R&D?

About 90% of the banana industry is located around north Queensland and is located on agricultural land that is subject to high rainfall and an increased risk of affecting water quality on the Great Barrier Reef.

Are you hopeful solutions will be developed that allow tropical agriculture and the reef to thrive?

I believe that field trials set up to show farmers what can be achieved in the paddock are very powerful tools in showing what is possible. By demonstrating that commercially viable yields can be produced using fertilisers that minimise leaching, we have given farmers the means to target the available nitrogen when the plant requires uptake which reduces losses and leads to improved best management practices.

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For more information on this project click here.