Cover cropping in a macadamia orchard underway in northern NSW, 2020. Photo: Rex Harris
Cover cropping in a macadamia orchard underway in northern NSW, 2020. Photo: Rex Harris

Funding to help quantify emerging farming practice

A business named as a successful recipient of funding through round three of the Smart Farms Small Grants program is helping Bundy macadamia farmers get the most from their crop.

The program provides up to $50,000 worth of funding for agricultural projects.

Luckily for BioResources Pty Ltd, they were named twice.

BioResources' Bundaberg project manager Abigail Makim said locally the $50 grand would go towards the company's efforts in trying to quantify the benefits of "cover cropping".

"It's an emerging practice and agricultural technology," Ms Makim said.

"It's being adopted in everything from grazing to broadacre, lots of orchard industries, vineyards. It's a really big emerging area.

"Obviously it's not the economic crop on a farm, but there's very good evidence of what we call ecosystem services that come with cover cropping."

She said when it came to orchards, about half the land was by nature not being used, at least not to the fullest effect.

"So you've got your permanent crop in there with the trees, but at the moment most conventional farms at best will have a grass or something along those lines, and the benefits of that are very limited," she said.

"If we can improve the vegetation in the inter-row, we'll target specific things like flowering, we'll improve that because flowers have pollen and they have nectar which is really important for beneficial insects.

"We'll target specific seasons in the crop cycle. We'll get pollinators in there when the trees are flowering - there's a whole lot of really targeted ways that we can start to change what's being grown in the inter-row of the orchard and bring in these additional ecosystem services."

Ms Makim said the funding would help the company bring the capacity for monitoring and quantifying the usefulness of cover cropping for the industry.

"There's a lot of talk in a lot of industries about how this might be a good thing to do, but what we're going to do is work with the growers to actually put the seeds into the ground and actually monitor what insects come in to visit, what changes we can see in the soils as a response to those new crops being introduced," she said.

The company also qualified for funding to help with macadamia "dark orchard" rehabilitation in New South Wales and implementation and demonstration of inter-row cover-cropping.

Flynn MP Ken O'Dowd said local farmers had always been early adopters of new technologies.

"These recently funded projects in Monto, Gladstone and Bundaberg show the determination of many in the electorate to continue that tradition," he said.

"The money will go towards helping improve property management including building grazier capacity in the Inland Burnett and inter-row cover cropping for new macadamia orchards in the Bundaberg region."