Project News ·
Practice change in action
Mackay Area Productivity Services (MAPS) plays a pivotal role in the Mackay Whitsunday Water Quality Program (MWWQP) by assisting local growers in optimising their agricultural practices and helping with positive practice change. By developing nutrient management plans and Nitrogen and Phosphorus (N&P) budgets, helping farmers maximise profits while reducing input costs, and promoting environmental stewardship, MAPS contributes to the Program's overall goal of improving water quality and ensuring the sustainability of the industry in the region.
Charles and Therese Townley read about the Major Grants on offer through Canegrowers media releases and a conversation with another sugarcane grower who was also interested. The Townley’s contacted MAPS to initiate the process to acquire a new Hodge 3-row stool-splitter fertiliser box. The Townley’s are Smartcane BMP accredited growers and have recently participated in the MAPS project under the Mackay Whitsunday Water Quality Program, funded by the partnership between the Australian Government's Reef Trust and the Great Barrier Reef Foundation.
In particular, Charles was interested in how using a hydraulic motor to drive the worm, rather than a ground-driven chain and sprockets, could improve his fertiliser efficiency. Charles realised that an easier means to change fertiliser rates to address productivity constraints between blocks of cane was needed rather than always changing sprockets. Hydraulic drive was the way to go, but it needs to respond to different ground speeds. That is, it needs to be linked to GPS.
The Townley’s are familiar with the Trimble units and are also interested in the potential to use mapping within the cane block to also adjust fertiliser rates on the go. These can be yield maps, maps of electrical conductivity (EC maps) or other soil-based maps.
Fabrication of the applicator has commenced for delivery in October with the hydraulics and wiring to mesh with the GPS unit in the tractor cab. Instruction in its use will be provided by Trimble and the Townleys look forward to fine tuning their on-farm fertiliser applications with assistance from MAPS. With the new gear, the Townleys will be able to apply the optimum amount of fertilisers on their farms and minimise any nitrogen runoff to local waterways.
Three row stool splitter. Credit: Hodge Industries
#Townley Family's AgTrix Farming Journey
The Townley family are celebrating a century since they acquired their first cane farm. Currently, they manage cane cultivation on 12 farms, primarily centred around their family farm on Cowleys Road in West Mackay and with several more on the north side of the Pioneer River. Recognising the importance of meticulous record-keeping, they've experimented with various methods over the years.
Early diaries from the 1950s meticulously detail rainfall, planting, harvesting crews, and noteworthy incidents. Additionally, they've employed record books from entities like the pest board, Canegrowers, and local rural businesses, which were eventually archived in cardboard boxes. In 2018, when the Townleys pursued BMP Smartcane accreditation, they returned to paper-based recording using provided templates, maps, and planning tools.
Recognising the limitation with paper-based recording, Therese Townley transitioned to using the AgTrix Farming data recording platform in 2021, following on from their involvement in the MWWQP MAPS project and with guidance from her MAPS Productivity Officer. Therese praises AgTrix Farming for its user-friendliness, data security, easy retrieval, and report generation capabilities. Her husband, Charles, and sons, Jono and Charlie, value the technology's ability to measure distances and areas for specific tasks, reducing the need for manual notetaking.
While they initially found AgTrix Farming Phone App required some setup and had occasional repetitive steps, it proved straightforward once they received guidance. Shane Hare from MAPS helped them download the App onto their smartphones and taught them how to record chemical and fertilizer applications. AgTrix Farming also enables them to plan tasks, which syncs with their smartphones and can be edited later, including adding relevant weather details.
One notable feature they discovered was the ability to record fertiliser and chemical applications simultaneously in the same block, streamlining their operations. With AgTrix Farming, record-keeping is no longer a solitary burden but a shared family effort as they celebrate their centenary in cane farming.
MAPS N&P Budget grower training. Credit: MAPS
Therese recently adopted the new feature in AgTrix Farming that calculates her annual N&P budget. She attended one of the N&P budget training sessions conducted by MAPS in March and has been using it since then to calculate N&P budgets for her farms. Therese mentioned that she quickly learned how to input the results of her soil tests and assess how her planned fertiliser rates compared. She described it as "great and easy to use." Previously, Therese used a spreadsheet developed by MAPS for her N&P budgets, but it consumed a significant amount of time.
With AgTrix Farming, all farming operations and soil test data are already stored in one platform, making it easy to integrate recommendations. She mentioned that it's simple to adjust fertiliser rates for each block to suit their specific needs. Additionally, the platform displays the total fertiliser inputs required, simplifying the planning process for fertiliser needs.
The Agtrix Farming recording platform is a free service to growers. It is a convenient and efficient way to meet current government regulations and help improve growers’ data management and farming practices. Agtrix Farming is a practical digital platform available to Mackay growers allowing them to keep better records which helps them to make better on-farm management decisions working towards improved productivity and water quality outcomes.
The MAPS project is part of the Mackay Whitsunday Water Quality Program, funded by the partnership between the Australian Government's Reef Trust and the Great Barrier Reef Foundation.