Sugarcane is the dominant intensive agricultural land use in the Great Barrier Reef catchment and is largely located in the high rainfall coastal areas. Sugarcane areas contribute runoff of nutrients and pesticides to the GBR which can be reduced through the development and adoption of improved management practices. A package of $1,585,000 was allocated to three sugarcane industry projects that focused on demonstrating the water quality benefits and sustainability of 'A-class' practices (RRRD056) while also filling gaps in knowledge on smarter irrigation and fertiliser systems (RRRD004) and the role of legume fallows in reducing the need for the application of fertiliser (RRRD020).

An associated package of research also investigated potential water quality and agronomic benefits of alternative herbicide products and water quality benefits of improved practices to reduce pesticide runoff (RRRD037).

Historic data on the water quality benefits of a range of sugarcane management practices was collated to inform ongoing modelling exercises (RRRD011) such as those under the Paddock to Reef program.

These projects were supported by research on understanding the social and economic motivations for practice improvement in the sugarcane industry (RRRD039) and potential constraints to the adoption of improved practices due to impacts on profitability and sustainability (RRRD010). The research built on the experiences of NRM groups and drew upon existing knowledge about water quality outcomes and sustainability aspects of management practices to inform the delivery of Reef Rescue Water Quality Grants and future incentive programs.

RRRD056: Evaluating and improving A-Class practices to control nutrient losses from sugarcane

RRRD004: Advanced drip and optimised furrow irrigation to minimise sediment, nutrient and pesticide losses to the environment through deep drainage and runoff from sugarcane and banana industries of wet tropics in northern Queensland

RRRD020: Mineralisation of nitrogen within the sugarcane cropping system following legume fallows and its effect on water quality

RRRD037: Pesticide dynamics in the Great Barrier Reef catchment and lagoon: management practices in the sugarcane industry

RRRD011: Capturing historic small catchment study (paddock scale) data to support quantification of management impacts on water quality on the Great Barrier Reef

RRRD039: Integrated assessment of BMP cost-effectiveness and decision tool for regions and landholders

RRRD010: Factors affecting adoption of land management practices that have water quality benefits in the GBR catchments: Evaluation scenarios for Cane Farming