Could legume production be the key to improving water quality on the Great Barrier Reef?Mackay region cane grower and Nuffield scholar Simon Mattsson would say it is, without a doubt.
Despite recent criticism that industry best management practice programs won’t deliver the water quality targets of the Reef 2050 Plan, Mr Mattsson has argued that greater use of legumes as a rotational crop for cane could help protect the reef’s future.
Mr Mattsson plants legumes as a rotational crop on his cane farm and said the benefits of legumes were numerous.
“A well-managed legume fallow will provide enough nitrogen for the plant cane crop, so right there is the first benefit,” he said.
“Not only do you get enough nitrogen for your plant cane crop but it is a form that is very difficult — nearly impossible — to be leached away.
“If you’ve got a living plant in the soil, it is protecting the soil from raindrop impact … and so you get a lot less sediment runoff from the field.”
While legume rotation is a part of current best management practice strategies, Mr Mattsson said not nearly enough growers were taking up this particular management practice.
In the Mackay district, he has found only a small portion of fallow land has been planted with legumes.
“Within the Mackay region we have roughly 10,000 hectares of fallow a year and over the last couple of years only approximately 2,000 hectares of that — judging by seed sales — has actually been planted to a legume fallow.”
When asked why there were not many growers taking up the practice, Mr Mattsson believed there were a number of reasons.
“A lot of growers do not have access to the appropriate equipment and as a general rule, most people do not like change,” he said.
“If we could adopt legume rotation 100 per cent across the board, if that was the only thing we did, that would be a huge improvement on where we are today.”
Mr Mattsson said now was the time for change to be accepted more widely in the industry, “in a hurry”.
“I think as an industry we need to make more of an effort to try and make those of us that are at the bottom of the industry to force change somehow, before regulation forces us all.”
Source – ABC